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The Common Indian Toad

The Common Indian Toad

Rahul Alvares, 31, is a wildlife consultant and snake rescuer based in Goa. He also edits an online newsletter called The Creepy Times. Be sure to check out his website: www.rahulalvares.com

Rahul Alvares’ indifference to the common Indian toad changed when he visited the Andamans and observed it closely.

It’s ironic how sometimes you have to travel almost three thousand kilometres to appreciate something you find around your own house all the time!

I’m walking back from my sit-out in front of the beach at Havelock (Andamans) and I notice a movement out of the corner of my eye. It’s about 10 in the night and the patch of lawn I’m walking on is pitch dark. But I’m always equipped with a head torch and I have no difficulty in finding the small creature that has caught my attention. It’s a toad.

As I walk towards it, it hops away. I follow it and it keeps hopping away. Then I realise that I’m walking too quickly and try a more stealthy approach. Soon I’m within two feet (0.6 m.)of the amphibian and am clicking away with my camera. The toad doesn’t seem to mind the camera flash and waits politely until I get satisfactory shots of it.

Once done with taking pictures, I continue observing it with the light of my head torch. The toad doesn’t do much besides maintaining a fairly guilty expression on its face.

Although the colouration of the common Indian toad varies greatly from specimen to specimen, this species is usually medium to large sized with numerous black-tipped, horny warts spread all over the body. The underside or belly of the toad is lighter, usually whiteish in colour.Photograph by Rahul Alvares.

I’ve noticed this about toads since I first saw them as a kid. They always look guilty. Perhaps they feel they have gorged on too many insects! As a kid I never liked toads for two reasons. Firstly, because they felt soft and squishy to the touch. Secondly and more importantly, they always urinated when picked up. And they were very effective in spraying it so it always landed on some part of your body. Though the urine never caused any harm I still wasn’t ‘cool’ with being sprayed on!

As I grew up my dislike for toads turned into indifference. But when I started handling snakes I suddenly had a new-found interest in toads again. This was because they could serve as food for the snakes I rescued. Most of the snakes I showed the toads to, however, never seemed interested in them. Turns out these toads secrete disagreeable substances from parotid glands on their heads. The poisonous secretions render them quite unpalatable for many species of snakes. So I lost interest in them again.

That is until now when I was sitting two feet (0.6 m.) away from one. The warts, loose skin, fat belly, and bulging eyes on it all made for a package that was both ugly and cuddly-cute at the same time.

The skin of toads like the common Indian toad performs several interesting functions, including the absorption of water, and the secretion of disagreeable substances to dissuade eager predators. Additionally, the skin of the male common Indian toad turns yellowish in breeding season, to attract females. Photograph by Rahul Alvares.

by Rahul Alvares, First appeared in: Sanctuary Cub, January 2012


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