We discovered a Common/European Toad (Bufo bufo) in the Meerkat enclosure this morning and decided to rescue her in case the Meerkats decided she might make a tasty snack!
We decided she must be a female because females are the larger of the sexes, growing to around 13cm (she was about that size) whereas adult males measure only about 8cm. Although an amphibian, Toads spend most of their time on land – which explains why she was away from water in the sandy Meerkat enclosure! This female Toad is likely to go looking for a pond or other still water to lay her eggs (toad-spawn) in the spring, when she is will attempt to return to the water in which she was born! ‘Toad-spawn’ can be distinguished from frog-spawn because it forms strings rather than a large mass of eggs. ‘Toadpoles’ have a larger, rounder, blacker head and shorter tail than frog tadpoles.
Toads generally hunt at night, and are most active in wet weather. As a defence against predators they secrete a toxic, foul tasting substance called bufagin; this deters most predators (although grass snakes and hedgehogs seem not to be affected by it).