Cane Toads and Their Ongoing Invasion of Australia (by Shirley)

The Cane Toad

The cane toad is an invasive species in Australia. They are characterized by its yellow-brown skin and bony ridges along its mouth/snout. They exude a toxic poison through their prominent glands.

Previous sucesses in South America, which showed that cane toads were effective against sugarcane-eating beetles, persuaded the Australians to acquire toads for their own sugarcane crops along the coast of Queensland.

Queensland, Australia

A total of 102 cane toads were introduced in 1935, from Hawaii to Queensland, Australia. This was a mistake- it turned out that the toads weren’t effective at all in eliminating the beetles! They ate everything else, and they could eat anything edible.

Even worse, cane toads could produce 30,000 tadpoles at a time. Even more worse, cane toads are an extreme r-species. The tadpoles can become adults by week four. (They have large sexual drives, which cause them to mate constantly. According to one person’s account, a male toad was still mating with a female even when she was clearly dead for quite some time.) This rapid growth became freakishly out of control; their population quickly spreaded west and south of the country.

Although the toads’ population were maintained in their native lands by predators, they have no natural predators in Australia. According to Dr. Bob Endean, Associate Professor of Zoology at Queensland University, the poison has compounds such as “steroids, which affect the heart muscle,” and “bufotoxin,” which is fatal. The poison glands are over the shoulders of the toad, and if pressed, the poison would shoot out. Due to this, cane toads are deadly to both animals and humans alike, and there were cases of deaths caused by its poison.

The toxins were also used for an illegal drug. The ease of simply stepping outside your house and finding a toad right there, was a major contributor in the drug’s production. Not only were the toads a danger to anyone dull enough to hold/touch one incorrectly, they also caused problems in law/society.

The cane toads are considored nusiances, but since they were everywhere, there are people who adore and considered them as a sort of ‘symbol’ of Australia. Many of these people take them in as pets. In one instance, a cane toad statue was erected in Queensland. One of Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding presents from Australia is a book with an emblem instpired by the cane toad.

Today in Queensland, they are as common as the grey squirrel in the U.S. (In some parts, they’re more than common- more like an infestation!) The problem is still as rampant as it was 20 years ago, with a family of cane toads in a backyard, toad mobs on roads, etc. Shooting toads for sport has become a morality vs. population management issue. The only actions Australians can take against the cane toads are to shoot them, or gather a lot of their eggs.

Bibliography

“Barry’s 2008 Australia Trip.” Barry’s Australia Trips and Other Pictures. Web. <http://www.barry15.com/2008_Trip/&gt;.

Cane Toads: An Unnatural History. Dir. Mark Lewis. Film Australia, 1988.

“Cane Toad.” Kimberly Frog Finder. Western Australian Museum. Web.

Cane Toads: The Conquest. Dir. Mark Lewis. Radio Pictures, 2010.

“The Feral Cane Toad (Bufo Marinus).” Australian Dept of SEWPaC. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2010.                    Web. <http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive/publications/cane-toad/factsheet.html&gt;.

Further Exploration

Cane Toads: The Conquest (2010, trailer)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYUHnf7Uy1k
Cane Toads: An Unnatural History (1988)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mvV8OT-mmE&

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