VISITORS to parks in the German city of Hamburg were warned yesterday to watch out for exploding toads.
Several thousand have so far mysteriously and spontaneously blown up, sending entrails and body parts over a wide area.
Eyewitnesses say the toads swell up to three-and-a-half times their normal size before they explode.
Vets and animal welfare workers said the mystery disorder had cut a swathe through the city’s toad population.
Werner Smolnik, a nature- protection worker from Hamburg, said at least 1,000 toads had died in this manner over the past four days amid scenes reminiscent of "a science-fiction film".
He said: "It is a complete mystery. We have a lot of ideas which we are following up, but at the moment we haven’t the faintest idea if any of them are correct. It could be an unknown virus, or a fungus that has infected the water, or a defence mechanism against aggressive crows which have appeared in the area."
He went on: "You see the toads crawling along the ground, swelling and getting bigger as they go until they are like little tennis balls, and then they suddenly go ‘boom’."
Janne Kloepper, from the Hamburg Institute for Hygiene and the Environment, said: "If this keeps up, there will be no toads left in Hamburg."