The Cane Toad - Australia's Greatest Pest
The Cane Toad would be probably the most hated of all of the creatures found in Australia today. Even other introduced species which are now classified as feral: rabbits, foxes, and cats (all of which have been responsible for the destruction of either the environment, native wildlife, or domestic poultry etc) don't elicit the same degree of distaste.
Even our many notoriously dangerous native creatures don't seem to have the same stigma associated with them. People may fear crocodiles, sharks, our many poisonous snakes, funnel web spiders etc, but we also respect them. Not so the cane toad.
Children in Australia are brought up to naturally detest the toad and I remember many an evening toad hunting with flash lights, golf clubs or cricket bats in hand. When you found a toad you took turns to use either implement to see who could hit the toad the fartherest. (I'm sure if it was in the USA we would be also using a baseball bat to see who could hit a home run.)
During our wet Summers the roads are covered with toads, and you see drivers swerve, not to miss them (as they do with other wildlife), but to run over or 'pop' them. This may sound cruel but given the threat they pose to native wildlife (certain breeds of frog have almost become extinct in certain areas due to the toad influx), and their out of control breeding and spread, it's treated as an acceptable sport. I have to admit, they are also UGLY, and this certainly doesn't help their cause. If they were cute and cuddly, like furry little bunnies, they probably wouldn't be so nationally despised.
Funny(or Gross) Animated Video
Cane Toads: Interesting Facts
- 102 cane toads were introduced to Australia from Hawaii in 1935.
- There are now more than 1.5 billion toads in Australia.
- Toads now occupy an area of over 1 million square kilometres (620 000 square miles).
- The cane toads have now advanced as far west as inside the Western Australian border. This is a distance of about 2,424 km or 1,506 miles from where they originated.
- The western toads seem to have evolved larger and stronger hind legs; this is thought to have developed to allow them to travel farther, however the consequence of their longer legs, larger bodies, and faster movement, has been for 10% of these cane toads to have developed arthritis. It is estimated that cane toads can migrate at an average of 40 kilometres (25 miles) per year.
- Cane toads have a strong mating drive and have actually been seen in their enthusiasm mating with rocks, clumps of dirt, human feet and roadkill.
- Toads' preferred food is insects, but they will eat anything that fits into their mouths – living or dead. Analysis of a cane toad’s stomach contents has revealed various insects, frogs, lizards, rocks, sticks, small mammals and smaller cane toads. They also love cat and dog food (I know this from experience).
- A submission was made to the Guinness Book of Records in 1975 about a cane toad called Gerty from Proserpine, Queensland to be classed as the worlds largest toad. Gerty allegedly weighed 3 kilograms (6.61 pounds) and was raised on a diet of beer. However while waiting for this record to be approved Gerty died and the Guinness adjudicators rejected the record claim due to lack of evidence.
- In 1988, Queensland Museum, was given an enormous cane toad called Big Bette.This huge toad measured 22cm (8.6 inches) in length and weighed 1.8 kilos (4 pounds) - about the same weight as a Chihuahua dog.
- In 2007 a giant toad labelled ‘Toadzilla’ was captured in the Northern Territory. He was 20.5cm long and weighed 840 grams(1.9 pounds).
- Cane toads are extremely hardy and have been observed hopping out of bush fires, climbing out of freshly tamped hot tar,or from under a newly cemented slab, and hopping away after being impaled or run over.
- In 2008, a cane toad named Spew survived for 40 minutes in a dog’s stomach after being swallowed whole. Surprisingly the dog survived. Swallowing a toad usually proves fatal.
- The RSPCA suggests that the most humane way to kill a toad is refrigeration. To do this, place the toad in a plastic bag or container, seal it, then refrigerate for 12 hours. The toad will go to sleep. Next, put the bag into the freezer for at least 24 hours and the toad will die painlessly.· A previous suggestion by the RSPCA recommended dispatching the toads humanely by smearing them with hemorrhoid cream. This method did not gain popularity.
- A Queensland University study estimated that more than 200 tonnes of cane toad flesh is squashed on Queensland roads each year.
- Prince Charles and Lady Diana were given a book bound in cane toad skin leather as a wedding present. Charles, in his “thank you” letter, said it would give them much pleasure in their married life.
- Toad venom is so potent that the poison from one toad can quickly kill a 9 Foot Crocodile.
- Vets have recorded cases of clever domestic dogs licking the toads in controlled doses in order to get a 'high' from the venom.
Cane Toad Biology.
The cane toad (Rhinella marina) was formerly called Bufo marinus and is the largest species in the family Bufonidae. Adult cane toads are strongly-built and weigh an average of up to 1.8 kg. (4 lbs.)and vary in size from 15–23 cm.(4-9 in.) Their skin is warty and their back and sides may vary in colour from olive-brown or reddish-brown to gray, and their bellies are yellowish or whitish with darker mottling.Their body is round and somewhat flat, their front feet are unwebbed, but their back feet have tough, leathery webbing. Cane toads have short legs and a ridged bony head with prominent eyes.
Behind their ears lie the parotid glands, which causes their head to appear swollen. These glands are used for defense against predators and produces a milky toxic secretion or poison that is deadly to many species. This venom affects heart function. It is painful, but not generally fatal for humans. However, it can cause severe burning of the eyes and hands, and skin irritation.
With the uncontrollable population explosion and spread of the cane toad around Australia, and the continued failure of eradication programs, some enterprising individuals and artists have turned the cane toad into a source of revenue rather than considering it a pest.
There have been art exhibitions featuring taxidermied toads posed in various scenarios as boxing and football matches etc. Many towns you visit in Queensland will have gift stores where you can buy 'cane toad' souvenirs such as wallets, caps, key rings etc etc. they are simply taking advantage of an area where there is a huge supply, and trying to create a growing demand for the products.
Cane toads are also being collected in huge numbers and turned into fertiliser. Although they are an ecological disaster, this is a way for some to be recycled and put to use improving the soil and plants.
Some of the thousands of cane toads caught by the residents of Cairns Australia overnight and entered into the "Toad's Day Out" program, await euthanasia by freezing in Cairns, Australia, Sunday, March 29, 2009. Thousands of poisonous cane toads met a poetic fate on Sunday, as gleeful Australians gathered for a celebratory mass killing of the hated amphibians, with many of the creatures' corpses being turned into fertilizer for the very farmers they've plagued for years.
Frog Watch, a conservation group in the Northern Territory that seeks to greatly reduce the cane toad population, approached Moeco Pty Ltd. with the idea to produce a fertilizer from the unwanted pests. A preliminary batch of cane toad fertilizer was processed in February 2006 from 200 kilos of frozen toads. Greening Australia will test the fertilizer.
The manufacturer asserts the liquified toads, an organic goop blue in color, is a high potassium fertilizer good for all types of fruit trees and recommended for flowering plants to enhance their size and coloring. (source: www.dirtdoctor.com)
© 2014 John Hansen