F IRST the geckos, now its the toads. Poorer Cambodians are drinking so much
toad-wine as to cause worries that the local toad population is being
Environment Minister Dr Mok Mareth has appealed to toad
hunters to stop catching the amphibians. "It greatly affects the environment...
toads [help] create balance in the ecosystem," he said.
Tens of thousands
of toads are being killed and mixed with white wine that traditional healers
believe is good to cure some sexually transmitted diseases.
local drinkers find the toad-wine - a stout-like liquid - a way to enjoy alcohol
which is much cheaper than beer or whiskey.
According to Chay Seang Y, a
popular traditional healer in Phnom Penh, toad wine is especially good for
syphilis but the advertising label claims that it is good for the treatment of
many other kinds of sexually transmitted diseases, in addition to the promotion
of appetite and good sleep.
Seang Y said the toad wine - unlike the gecko
wine which is believed to have originated in China and Vietnam - is an ancient
Khmer heritage handed down for generations. It has become even more popular in
recent years. The toads are dried, fried, crushed and mixed in white wine along
with some herbs, including black sugar cane, according to Seang Y. He said the
toad had specific properties to chase the virus out of the blood while the other
herbs wait "to ambush and destroy it outside".
Under Secretary of State
for Environment Pou Savath does not care much about such super properties of the
toad, however. "I'd sooner see toads catching harmful insects that destroy crops
in the field," he said.