SI Vault
Edited by Richard Demak
November 11, 1991
A Victory for Fear A game is called because of the threat of violence
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November 11, 1991


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For a country that considers the legs of amphibians something to be eaten, France certainly shows a touching concern for toads.

After the French government proposed building a $207 million, 22-mile highway to connect the Alpine town of Montmélion to Albertville, the hub of the 1992 Winter Olympics, ecologists pointed out that the road would cut off a colony of rare toads from its breeding pond. So an underpass, called a crapauduc (a toad duct), was constructed through which the toads could commute. The underpass was designed to be two toad-widths wide to avoid toad jams caused by toads who refused to hop over their fellow commuters—apparently they never heard of leapfrogging.

Such tunnels are built for the benefit not only of amphibians, but of humans, too. If there were no tunnel, toads would waddle across the road and be squished under the tires of speeding vehicles. The resulting mess might actually be dangerous for drivers. Some cars could skid off the highway and end up in a ditch. Toad or be towed.

Toad tunnels are not unique to France. There are at least 150 in Germany and a dozen in Great Britain. In fact, two years ago, an International Toad Tunnel Conference was held in West Germany at which the ins and outs of toad-tunnel construction were discussed.

Considering all of this fuss, toad tunnels might not seem worth all the trouble. But the benefit is obvious: Fewer toads will croak.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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