Toads – wonderful animals in great danger

Admittedly, every year I felt guilty again when the toad fences were put up and still I found lots of dead toads on the streets. This year I read that helpers were needed across Austria – so I got in touch and was given the phone number of a man in Loosdorf. The name sounded familiar to me straight away and we realised that we had known each other for a long time. Leo Bieber has been helping toads for 12 years and he is very experienced. He and his volunteers work according to a well-structured schedule.
In accordance with this schedule, I was assigned to work on a specific day, or rather evening, which suited me just fine given my workload. Leo has been taking a different approach for many years, even though a toad fence is installed, he collects the toads from the forest, puts them into boxes and takes them to their desired destination – two ponds a good distance from the busy main road – by car, where he releases them. This “toad taxi” saves more animals than a regular toad fence.

I was shown everything in detail and my many questions were answered very carefully. Now I know a lot more about these lovely creatures. The population at this place is around 250 animals, with males dominating, but that seems to be the case all over Austria. One evening it was raining lightly, there were four of us and we could hardly keep up with collecting the toads that were already on their way back. In a very short time we collected roughly 140 animals. You have to have a trained eye to spot the little wanderers in the light of the flashlight and extreme caution is required so that you don’t step on a toad. Somehow it reminded me a bit of egg hunting…and every toad discovered was happily stored in the bucket. Then they were separated into boxes by gender and released at the edge of the forest, where they could return to their refuge. While collecting them, I noticed how different these pretty animals look, the large females, the small males, some shimmer gold, some reddish, some have a pattern on their backs. The quiet croaking in the bucket let us know that the animals didn’t really want to end up in the bucket, but once they were released, they happily went on their way. For me, these days of rescuing toads were a wonderful experience and these animals have grown even closer to my heart than before, when I only saw the dead, flattened toads on the roads, which always made me deeply sad. Motivated by this location, I set out several evenings to check out Steinparz and St.Leonhard am Forst. There are toad fences here too, but in St.Leonhard in particular, there were a lot of dead animals on the road.

No wonder, hardly any drivers slowed down, despite signs pointing out the toad migration.

Of course, a toad rescuer always goes with a safety vest, bucket, flashlight and gloves, not because we are disgusted – on the contrary, these animals are absolutely adorable – but so that they are not contaminated with human germs.

As I said, safety vest and flashlight, I was certainly clearly visible, but hardly any cars slowed down… many toads were sitting in the middle of the road and only survived by a miracle.

I found a special specimen one night and at first I thought it was dead. But it seemed unharmed except for something pink hanging out of its mouth. My first thought was that it was probably organs that had been squeezed out when the car drove over it, but as the body looked intact, I wasn’t sure – I quickly packed it up in a bucket and drove home with the little toad. I got a mini terrarium from the attic and filled it with soil and leaves. It was already late and I put it in a cool room, safe from the dogs. The next day, I opened the container, full of worry and fear. Was the toad dead? No, it was staring at me intently, with the pink stuff still hanging out of its mouth, now stuck with soil. My initial suspicion that this could be its tongue was confirmed. I held the little toad under the water pipe and rinsed the soil off its tongue. The toad was literally dogged in, not pulling its tongue back. Using tweezers, I carefully opened her mouth and tried to stuff her tongue in, which I partially succeeded in doing, but then the animal pulled its tongue back completely on its own. Finally, it was done, she actually seemed unharmed, but probably in shock.

I brought her back to the terrarium and caught a small worm in the garden, which I gave her. I felt sorry for the worm, but the toad had to eat something. I can’t say whether she actually did this. I kept spraying her with water and fetching wet leaves. I asked Leo for advice and he said I should wait until she moved on her own. The next day she looked at me with her beautiful eyes and I put her in the raised bed in the garden, where I left her sitting under old leaves at first. But the toad just didn’t want to move – finally when I came back and checked again, she moved. I brought her back to the small terrarium, waited until dusk and then brought her home – back to where I had found her, because toads are loyal to their territory. Of course I brought her to the side of the road where she was at home, released her near the trees and wished her lots of luck.

She certainly made it, I’m quite sure of that.

Many did not make it, they were killed on their way to their destiny. How many cars could I see that raced on mercilessly, perhaps indifferently, perhaps on purpose.

“I am life that wants to live, in the midst of life that wants to live,” Albert Schweitzer once said.

This applies to all living things on this earth.

We humans already destroy so much, it is our duty to help animals so that they survive.

It is a wonderful feeling to have contributed a small part to ensuring that innocent creatures can continue their lives, reproduce, preserve their species, and survive.

I wish all toads a safe survival, and their offspring a safe “journey” from the ponds to the forests, fields and meadows.

I wish us humans more leniency towards these often not-so-fast road users, more calm and more compassion for our fellow creatures.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all toad conservationists for their tireless work in the service of nature.

By the way: In many cultures, toads are considered to be creatures of wisdom and intuition. Their keen awareness and ability to perceive subtle changes in their environment remind us to trust our instincts and listen to our inner wisdom. The toad encourages us to use our intuition and make decisions based on our inner guidance 🙂