According to worldwide media reports, toads in the Altona district in the German town of Hamburg, were observed by nature protection officials to swell up with gases and explode, propelling their innards for distances of up to one metre (over 2ft). These incidents prompted local residents to refer to the area's lake—home to the toads—as "Tümpel des Todes" (Pool of Death). The incidents were reported as occurring with greatest frequency between 2 and 3 a.m. Werner Smolnik, environmental movement worker, stated on April 26, 2005, at least 1,000 toads had died in this manner over a series of a few days. According to a witness, "toads swell up to three-and-a-half times their normal size before blowing up", and were noted to live a short time after exploding.
Hamburg nature protection society spokesman, Werner Smolnik, told the Hamburger Abendblatt daily: "It looks like a scene from a science-fiction movie. The bloated animals suffer for several minutes before they finally die."Vets and animal welfare agencies have spent days puzzling over the deeply troubling and downright disgusting mystery. Is it a fungus? Is it a virus? Are the toads simply suicidal? Lab tests for bacteriological or viral cause of the explosions have been ruled out, and have further shown the pond water to be normal. Tests for another possible agent - a fungus accidently introduced from South America - have also proved negative.
So what was causing these toads to explode?
Now, one amphibian specialist in Berlin, Dr. Frank Mutschmann, has come up with a clear -- albeit frightening answer. "It was probably crows," he said. Apparently, the nasty black bird's favorite treat is tasty foie de frog. The birds likely have been attacking the toads, pecking out their livers and then flying away. The rightly-terrified toads have then tried the only defense nature has given them -- they've puffed up in hopes of scaring the attacking bird away. But, with a hole in their bellies and no liver left, the "the lungs burst and the rest of the organs shoot straight out of the toads," Mutschmann said. The truly scary part is that about three to five hungry crows may be responsible for all the deaths. "Crows are very intelligent animals," Mutschmann said. "They learn quickly where, in just a short amount of time, they can come across lots of delicious livers." Perhaps it's time for a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."