Cape Town - Finding the right partner or starting a family can be fraught with pitfalls for anyone, but spare a thought for the Western leopard toad who risks life and limb to get some action.
To make matters even more complicated, the toads have a short breeding season and have to navigate busy, dangerous roads on rainy nights while heading to ponds to reproduce.
Many do not make it and end up flattened on the tarmac.
But in the Cape Peninsula they have had some help from dedicated teams of volunteers who patrol the roads to help get the toads to their rendezvous in one piece.
Montessori school teacher Suzie J’kul and guest house owner Alison Faraday founded Toad NUTS (Noordhoek Unpaid Toad Savers) 10 years ago to help save the endangered amphibians from extinction.
J’kul was driving home after night classes and was around 200m from her house when she spotted a huge toad in the road.
She stopped to pick it up and then saw many more.
“I called my friend Alison who came out to help and that is how it started.”
They roped in friends and built up a strong volunteer which now works in areas ranging from Muizenberg, Lakeside and Kirstenhof to Grassy Park, Zeekoevlei, Glencairn and Clovelly.
Faraday said the project had grown every year. Volunteers do patrols at night to help the toads cross the road safely without being killed by motorists. There is also a barrier system on some of the main roads with buckets to catch the toads which are then carried across the road to a nearby pond.
J’kul said some nights it was tough going out in the rain.
“But if you don’t, it is a slaughter out there.”
She said the beginning of breeding season was usually mid- to late-July coinciding with the first rains and often a full moon.
This year it was on July 20 and when volunteers went out in the Silvermine area they found 19 live toads and 12 dead ones.
Then, when blossoms start appearing on the fruit trees, and it gets a bit warmer, the calling starts.
The call is a deep snoring sound and when many toads are calling together, it sounds like a tractor or motorcycle engine.
Toad NUTS have “spotters” who go out and listen for the calling. They then alert the other volunteers that they are on the move.
While in amplexus (mating), the male holds on to the female's back for up to two weeks until she drops her eggs.
Why go out in the rain at night to save a toad? “Until people have had a one-on-one experience with an animal they don't get it. Because once you do, it touches your heart,” J’kul says.
Toad NUTS are always in need of volunteers. For more information, visit their Facebook site, The Endangered Western leopard toad.