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Grow Medicine is a project of the Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund

Help support the survival of the Sonoran desert Toad

The increased global demand for 5-MeO-DMT is threatening the survival of the Sonoran desert toad species. The ecological and anthropogenic pressures are significant, but together we can help alleviate them. 

Donate now to support the toad and its ecosystem to thrive for generations to come.

To counteract the ecological and anthropogenic pressures the toad and Yaqui communities have endured over the last decade, your donation through Grow Medicine directly supports three projects intentionally designed to protect the Sonoran Desert Toad and its natural habitat.

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Did you Know?

  • Toad Icon-brown
    The increased demand for 5-MeO-DMT is threatening the survival of the toad species.
  • Toad Icon-brown
    Thousands of toads are being abused and trafficked out of their natural ecosystem.
  • Toad Icon-brown
    Toads are collected and often jammed into plastic bags by the hundreds, removing them from their habitats.
  • Toad Icon-brown
    When a toad gets milked for its secretions, it is stripped of its natural defense mechanism, leaving it vulnerable to predators.
  • Toad Icon-brown
    By handling and corralling thousands of toads into confined spaces, humans have the ability to spread a deadly pathogen to the toads and other amphibians.
  • Toad Icon-brown
    False myths and narratives about the traditional use of the toad have misled the public, causing harm to Indigenous cultures and the species.
  • Toad Icon-brown
    The toad is not sufficiently protected by existing state laws. If things don't change, this increase in demand could push the species towards extinction.

Where your donation Goes

To counteract the ecological and anthropogenic pressures the toad and Yaqui communities have endured over the last decade, your donation through Grow Medicine directly supports three projects intentionally designed to protect the Sonoran Desert Toad and its natural habitat.

1.

Conducting an updated scientific toad population assessment

The first project is an updated scientific toad population assessment attempting to reclassify the species into either the "vulnerable" category or the "endangered" category under the IUCN's Red List, based on findings from the evaluation.

The assessment will be crucial for conservation management and protecting the species.

Until a proper assessment is complete, and its classification updated, it is suggested that a moratorium be placed on the harvest of secretions to help guarantee the stability of wild toad populations throughout its endemic geographic range in Mexico.

For those interested in working with 5-MeO-DMT, the use of synthetic versions rather than the toad itself is recommended. Synthetic 5-MeO-DMT will help alleviate the unnecessary and excessive harassment of the toad species and provide users with a safer medicine with fewer unknown compounds.

2.

Implementing a habitat & ecological restoration program

The second project is a habitat and ecological restoration program. The project aims to train Yaqui youth on restoring their territory's natural landscape by designing and installing rainwater harvesting systems to help optimize and enhance the toad's natural habitat.

The program will help restore the soil and enable various food sovereignty projects to be implemented as integral parallel arms of the Yaqui Intercultural Medicine Clinic.

3.

Launching Conservation Campaigns

The third project consists of launching campaigns to raise awareness around the need to conserve and protect toad populations, and their natural habitat, and clear up misinformation propagated by the media.

The conservation campaign project will start in Sonora and eventually extend nationally and internationally. The aim is to empower Sonora citizens to become stewards and support toad conservation by preventing poaching and illegal online trafficking.

Educational Workshops will be held for local Sonora citizens on the toad’s role in the ecosystem and its importance to the Yaqui communities.

The educational and awareness campaign will work to begin to shift the perception of the toad from an income revenue stream to a respected species for its intrinsic biocultural and ecological importance in the region.

Over the next three years, the scientific assessment will evaluate the extent of population decline. A repopulation plan will be developed to ensure ecologically sensitive strategies are implemented based on the findings.

What is Toad?

The Sonoran Desert Toad, Incilius alvarius (formerly Bufo alvarius) and commonly referred to as “toad” or “bufo,” is a unique species of toad.

The toad has large parotid glands that secretes a milky substance containing the powerful psychedelic compound 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine, or 5-MeO-DMT.

The toad’s secretions are often inaccurately referred to as “venom”. Biologically, it is a poison, a toxin consumed by a predator, while venom is a toxin delivered for killing prey or self-defense, via fang, sting, spine, or barb.

The Sonoran Desert Toad is endemic to the Sonoran Desert that extends from Sonora into parts of Sinaloa and Chihuahua in Mexico.

The toad was once present in California, where it is now extinct. It is currently found in New Mexico, where it is considered an endangered species, and in Arizona, where its population status is unknown.

For most of the year, the toad is dormant in underground burrows. However, the toad resurfaces in the summer months to breed in temporary watering holes across the Sonoran Desert. During this time, the toad is most vulnerable to being removed from its habitat.

Current Threats
FACing the toad

5-MeO-DMT

has become increasingly popular in underground ceremonies and psychedelic research.

Since 2011, the toad has gained unprecedented global popularity because of its large parotid glands that secrete a milky substance containing the powerful psychedelic compound 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine, or 5-MeO-DMT.

​​5-MeO-DMT produces a profound altered state of consciousness. In observational survey studies, after a single session of 5-MeO-DMT, some users have reported experiencing dramatic decreases in anxiety, depression, addiction, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as other therapeutic benefits. 

False myths and narratives

about the traditional use of the toad have misled the public, causing harm to the toad species and its habitat.

Commercial exploitation propagates unfounded and false narratives about the ancestral use of the toad’s secretions, comparing it to other Indigenous plant medicines such as Peyote and Ayahuasca.

Claims of the ancestral ceremonial use of 5-MeO-DMT on the part of Indigenous groups in Sonora have been made and propagated in various media outlets. The false narratives of alleged traditional use have led to the creation of neo-shamanic circles.

The increase in demand

FOR 5-MEO-DMT IS POSING A CONSERVATION THREAT TO THE TOAD AND ITS BIOCULTURE.

Extensive international demand is leading to the exploitation and monetization of the toad, potentially leading to the species’ localized extinction. 

Extraction of the toad’s secretions has resulted in a severe encroachment on the toad’s natural habitat. 

Today, surviving toad populations are under ever-increasing ecological and anthropogenic pressures. 

Besides environmental factors like severe drought conditions and pollution of water sources, a significant factor contributing to the reported decline is overharvesting, poaching, illegal black market trade, and trafficking across the US-Mexico border.

At this time of writing, the toad is not protected under any state or federal law.

In 2004, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an organization dedicated to nature conservation and sustainability, categorized the toad species as “least concern” given its wide distribution, habitat modifications, and presumed large populations.

However, the IUCN has recently stated that a new assessment for the species is urgently needed due to the rapid increase in demand, rapidly growing urbanization, and climate change.

It's important to know that if things don't change, this increase in demand could push the species towards extinction.

INHUMANE HARVESTING

practices are causing harm to the toad populations

Widespread use means the toad is handled inhumanely to extract its secretions, which are a defense against predators. 

Toads are collected and often jammed into plastic bags, buckets, or tanks by the hundreds, removing them from their habitats and then exploited for their secretions.

When a toad gets milked for its secretions, it is stripped of its natural defense mechanism, leaving it vulnerable to predators.

removing the toad

from it’s habitat is causing harm

Toads have an inner-GPS system they rely on to orient themselves to their habitat. 

When a toad is taken out of its territory for harvesting and released somewhere else, it is completely disoriented with a very low chance of survival.

When relocated, the toad becomes disoriented, which makes them susceptible to being hit by cars on roadways and being eaten by predators without the ability to defend themselves. If removed from their habitat and placed back in the wild at a different location, they are more likely to die while trying to make their way back home.

HANDLING TOADS CAN SPREAD AMPHIBIAN DISEASE

To make matters worse, handling large numbers of toads leads to an increased risk of spreading a fungus deadly to amphibians called chytrid. If contaminated, a single toad can spread the fatal pathogen into local ecosystems, causing significant damage to the species.

Despite the fact that there is no anthropological evidence to show the toad's secretions were used in ancient cultures...

the toad itself is culturally significant and plays a symbolic role to the Yaqui Tribe in the Mexican state of Sonora and the Pascua Yaqui in Arizona

To the Yaqui and Pascua Yaqui tribes, the toad is a very important biocultural element featured in rituals, dances, and stories/myths. The toad is considered a highly venerated deity, as it is the toad who created the Yaqui river and out of the Yaqui river, the Yaqui people were born.

In recent years, various international forums and psychedelic conferences have shared a narrative that toad populations are in abundance and are here for human use and consumption. 

Sonora citizens challenge this perspective, and even those who collect the toads’ secretions have noticed a dramatic decline in the local toad populations in Sonora’s capital city of Hermosillo and surrounding areas.

For many centuries, the Yaqui communities have faced displacement, as is the case with most native people in the world. They have been forced to defend their land, water, nature, and lives.

To make matters significantly worse, in 2010, Yaqui leaders believe that methamphetamine was deliberately introduced to the communities, along with organized crime in an attempt to weaken their well-organized legal and political activism.

Methamphetamine has divided the local communities, causing physical, mental, and emotional deterioration, fostering an increase in intra-family and community violence.

To address this problem, in 2014, with the support of various non-profit organizations, Yaqui tribe leaders created a series of intercultural medicine workshops in Yaqui territory. The results of these integrated medicine workshops sparked the idea of establishing a permanent clinic in Yaqui territory.

In 2021, the Yaqui Intercultural Medicine Clinic (IMC) was created to address the community’s mental health needs in culturally sensitive ways and as a platform for developing and implementing various toad conservation projects. This project is also being supported by the Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund. 

In our cosmovision, we are sons and daughters of the Rio Yaqui; a river that the toad helped create. Currently, the Rio Yaqui is dry, and the toad is in danger of going extinct due to the exploitation is being subjected to for its psychedelic properties. Our life and culture are vulnerable due to colonialist practices that appropriate nature, threatening the flow of natural order and life.

– Victoria Anahi Ochoa, Bufo seat on the conservation committee; IMC Fund Education Committee Member. 

What are

The Solutions

we recommend?

To counteract

the ecological and anthropogenic pressures the toad and Yaqui communities have endured over the last decade, let's help to protect the Sonoran Desert Toad and its natural habitat.

Until a proper assessment is complete, and its classification updated, it is suggested that a ban be placed on the harvesting of secretions to help guarantee the stability of wild toad populations throughout its endemic geographic range in Mexico. 

 

For those interested in working with 5-MeO-DMT, the use of synthetic versions rather than the toad itself is recommended. Synthetic 5-MeO-DMT will help alleviate the unnecessary and excessive harassment of the toad species and provide users with a safer medicine with fewer unknown compounds.

The Sonoran Desert toad is an emblematic species of this geographic bioregion, where it has lived for millions of years perfectly adapted to its ecosystem.

In a short span of 10 years, the world wide demand for this toad's defense secretions it's placing the species in an uncertain ecological situation. We need to act now, what each of us does matters. Let's respect the toads, let's leave them alone.

~ Anny Ortiz, IMC Fund Conservation Committee Member

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