REMEMBER the travelling toad that arrived in Cape Town from China inside a candlestick last December?
Well, the little critter is still alive and well and living in a glass case in Montecasino Bird Garden near Johannesburg.
And staff are planning a special Christmas dinner for the illegal immigrant. Instead of his usual diet of crickets with the odd worm, he will dine on a couple of fat Malagasy cockroaches for his festive fare.
Chris Cooke, curator of reptiles and mammals at the bird garden, said yesterday the toad – named Jack because of the candlestick connection – was doing well and was “strong”.
“He’s on display in a glass case, and there is a card next to it telling visitors how he came here. He gets fed on crickets mainly, but for Christmas we could do a couple of really juicy Malagasy cockroaches. I think he’d like that.”
It was exactly a year ago that the toad was found in a Mr Price store in Claremont by a customer shopping for candlesticks. She spotted the toad deep inside a porcelain candlestick and called management.
They called the SPCA’s wildlife unit. Jack was so deep
inside the porcelain candlestick that SPCA officials had to break it to get him out. He was alive, but seriously thin.
The box containing the candlesticks had not been opened on its long sea voyage between China and Cape Town, so Jack must have hopped into the candlestick factory somewhere in China. Next stop Africa.
Luckily the creature has a adaptation mechanism to survive drought, which kicked in during the long trans-Indian Ocean voyage.
It turned out that the conservation authorities were not too charmed with Jack's illegal entry into the country. He is a common Asian toad, which is highly invasive and poses a big threat to our indigenous population should he escape.
CapeNature, with a brief to protect our biodiversity, said he should be put down.
Big debate followed on social media: should Jack die to save our toads, or should he live? Eventually someone volunteered to pay for Jack to be flown up to Gauteng to the bird park and he was granted a stay of execution.
Last Christmas Jack spent in quarantine; this Christmas he will be on display, munching Malagasy cockroaches. Yum yum…