Other common names: Guasabalo, Sapo De Concha
Scientific name: Peltophryne empusa
This secretive toad is rarely seen in the wild or captivity. Limited to a tiny natural range, it faces an uncertain future and is in need of captive breeding efforts and habitat protection.
The Cuban Small-eared Toad is found only in several scattered locales in Cuba, and on the nearby Isla de Juventud, where it inhabits arid savannas and open woodlands. Except when breeding, it is rarely seen above ground.
Appearance / health:
The Cuban Small-eared Toad’s squat, brownish-yellow body is marbled with dark brown along the sides. It reaches an average length of 2-4 inches.
They are rarely kept in zoos or private collections. As with similar toads, nutritional concerns such as “Short-Tongue Syndrome” (related to a Vitamin A deficiency) and digestive tract blockages may be a concern.
Behavior / temperament:
Cuban Small-eared Toads spend most of their lives in burrows, appearing above ground only briefly to feed or reproduce. Spraying with water after dark may encourage activity.
They should be handled only when necessary, and then with wet hands so that the skin’s protective mucus is not removed. Amphibian skin secretions may cause irritations when transferred to their owner’s wounds, eyes, or the mouth.
Zoo experience indicates that Cuban Small-eared Toads are best housed as are Spadefoot Toads - in deep terrariums with a mix of sand and top soil, or commercial clay-based burrowing medium, as the substrate.
They fare best at 75- 80 F. Although well-adapted to arid habitats, a shallow water bowl should be available. Chlorine and chloramine must be removed from water via liquid preparations available at pet stores.
As is true for most amphibians, a cricket-only diet is inadequate. Roaches, sow bugs, crickets, butterworms, calciworms, silkworms, and other insects should be offered. Mealworms have been implicated in digestive system disorders (in related species), and should be avoided.
Most meals should be coated with a powdered Calcium/Vitamin D3 supplement. A vitamin mineral supplement may be used 2-3x weekly.
As is true for Spadefoot Toads and other fossorial species of arid habitats, Cuban Small-eared Toads breed in response to the infrequent rains. A commercial rain chamber may be useful in stimulating reproduction, but captive breeding has not been documented.
Written by Frank Indiviglio