A still night broken only by the buzzing of a nearby highway, then all of a sudden a slight din starts up – one guy tooting his own horn, revving his engine in a seemingly fruitless attempt to attract the ladies.
Suddenly all his buddies join in on the game as they too splutter into life until the drone and roar reaches a thunderous peak. This boisterous game continues every night for four or five days with the lucky few being singled out by the women as worthy, before carrying on their merry way to be seen again next year.
No, this festival of sex and noise is not your annual motorbike rally – its simply the Western Leopard Toads mating.
Last week I was lucky enough to be allowed entry into the Die Oog Bird Sanctuary in Bergvliet, Cape Town during a special time of the year. I knew about the Western Leopard Toad (who hasn’t seen the toad crossing signs dotted around the Cape?) and in fact have even come across them in the garden or on the road but what I didn’t know is that every year they come to this little wetland for a week long session of lovemaking.
During this period the toads leave our little gardens, on a journey to Die Oog where the males compete for the attention of the females. The first thing I noticed upon arrival was how quiet the night could be in the suburbs but this was quickly overcome by a deafening sound that can only be compared to the roar of a hundred motorbikes – the toads croaking for attention.
One little guy was already crossing the road on the way back to the sanctuary of his garden – a lucky one, chosen, copulated and completed early while the rest lay hoping (and hopping). After these few days of bliss and when the females are done laying their eggs they go back into the gardens, leaving the exhausted males to follow back to their homes and wait for their chance next year.
So next August when I see one of those little “toad crossing” signs and spot the friendly volunteers helping the eager fellows cross the roads, I will slow down and keep a look out for the toads and wish them the best of luck in their week of frisky fun.