Mon, Apr 25, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Bizarre spate of exploding toads rocks German city

HOP AND POP Hundreds of toads in a Hamburg lake have been swelling to three times their normal size and then blowing up -- and no one seems to know why

AFP , BERLIN

Hundreds of toads have met a bizarre and sinister end in Germany in recent days, it was reported Saturday: they exploded.

According to reports from animal welfare workers and veterinarians as many as a thousand of the amphibians have perished after their bodies swelled to bursting point and their entrails were propelled for up to a meter.

It is like "a science fiction film," according to Werner Smolnik of a nature protection society in the northern city of Hamburg, where the phenomenon of the exploding toad has been observed.

"You see the animals crawling on the ground, swelling and then exploding."

He said the bodies of the toads expanded to three and a half times their normal size.

"I have never seen such a thing," said veterinarian Otto Horst. So bad has the death toll been that the lake in Hamburg has been dubbed "the pond of death."

Access to it has been sealed off and every night a biologist visits it between 2am and 3am, which appears to be peak time for batrachians to go bang.

Explanations include an unknown virus, a fungus that has infected the water, or crows, which in an echo of the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds, attack the toads, literally scaring them to death.

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