toads are pest animals - at least in Australia.
They are big,
they are ugly,
and in some
places they are everywhere, so
you have to watch your steps to not to step on one.
They are too poisonous
touch and too disgusting to step on, so all you can do is to walk
around one and do your best to ignore it.
And that's hard to do too because they don't belong here, being introduced pests
that kill and
compete with native animals.
The toad (Bufo marinus) is
to central and south America and has, besides Australia,
introduced to about 15 other countries.
I am not sure
if they have other popular names in the other countries,
at least its name in Australia - cane toad
- comes from sugar cane
that the toad was
meant to save from cane beetles (never did).
cannot travel through eastern Queensland, not even along the main
coastal highway, without noticing just
how widely grown sugar cane is.
A lot of the
time you have cane fields on both sides of the road
anywhere between Daintree
in the north
and Hervey Bay in the south.
The cane has been grown
here since the
early 1900s, mainly by generations of south European
In the early 1930s,
chemicals (and don't even get me started on that subject..)
started being used
in the sugar cane industry, they
problems with cane beetles that destroyed the cane.
Somebody smart said that a big American toad could be the perfect
solution as it was known for being a hardy animal and an efficient
So Bufo marinus was introduced from Hawaii,
after a period of time growing and breeding in captivity, was released
to the wild in many spots along coastal Queensland (Cairns, Innisfail,Ingham, Ayr, Mackay and
first lot was released in
south of Cairns). Like many
other introduced animals, cane
were and still are very successful, and have by now spread
the way south to the border of New South Wales, and west, through
Northern Territory to the border of Western Australia.
And they did not affect the cane beetles (why - you will have explained
at the Cane Toad Races).
What Do the Cane Toads Look
toads can look a bit
like some of our native frogs (such as giant burrowing frog and eastern pobblebonk frog), but their skin is warty and drier.
They can grow up to
long but the largest one
recorded was 24cm.
Big for an amphibian.
They are most often brownish,
can also be grey or yellowish, and the belly is paler but has a pattern
with dark mottlings.
Their head can look almost swollen because of their large poison glands behind their
They are easier seen during darkness
hours, as they like to burrow themselves into moist soil
the midday and afternoon heat.
What Do the Cane Toads Eat and
Cane toads eat
ants, bees) but
will also eat food scraps, dead animals and steal pet food.
Occasionally they also take a snail, a small native frog, a small snake
and even a small mammal.
Tadpoles eat water plants such as algae, and filter organic matter from
the water. Occasionally they cannibalise on cane toad eggs.
Tadpoles are eaten by keelback snakes, saw shelled turtles, water
beetles and dragonfly nymphs.
The animals, and birds, that eat adult cane toads include crocodiles,
rats, wolf spiders, kites, crows, bush curlews, tawny frogmouths
white faced herons.
such as keelback snakes and saw shelled turtles can tolerate their poison,
have learned to avoid eating the poison glands.
Breeding and Life Cycle
Their breeding season
Wet Season, and mating starts after the first storms. In some places
they can also mate and breed all year around.
Females lay about 20,000 eggs that hatch in about 48 hours. Once they
hatch they become tadpoles
that stage lasts about 10 weeks but can vary depending on water
temperatures and food resources.
The next stage is toadlets
that get out of the water, and that stage can last a year (in the
tropics including Cape York) or two (further south) before they reach
They can live for up to 15 years (in captivity) but in the wild up to
five year olds have been recorded.
How Are They Bad for
No introduced species is good in
environment where they don't belong.
* Like other introduced animals, they compete
with native species about food resources and habitat.
* They kill native
that feed on amphibians, because they are poisonous.
* They can also carry diseases that can be transmitted to native
Indirectly the above affects
species in the food chain and finally the entire food web
Native frogs and reptiles
and other small lizards)
whose niche they use
decrease in numbers.
Native animals that feed
crocodiles, goannas, quolls, dingos, red bellied
black snakes, tiger snakes, and death adders.
But goannas for example feed on crocodile eggs. So obviously that
increases the amount of crocodiles.
And that's only one example. The ecosystem eventually gets out of
balance, some species may be favoured, others may finally go extinct.
They Are Also Dangerous to Us
They also poison a dog or a cat
that eats a
The signs include shallow
collapse of the
It is a
kind of poison that
affects heart function,
the death may happen as quickly as within 15 minutes.
There have been no human
Australia, but there have been human deaths in other
where cane toads or their eggs have been eaten by humans.
However, their poison
affect us externally.
If a cane toad feels threatened, it turns sideways towards the attacker
so that the venom glands are in the best position, and lets the poison ooze out of the
If you stick your arm or leg even closer or try to pick it up, it can squirt a spray of poison
a short distance.
Don't let that happen close to your face, because eyes, nose and mouth
have the kind of membranes that absorb
cause strong pain,
of the hands and eyes,
If that happens, wash
eyes, nose and mouth with plenty
water. If the symptoms don't go away, seek medical help.
Control of Cane
There are no simple methods to
get rid of
them however the
research is happening and different methods have been proposed to
Some of the ideas include releasing sterile males, removing eggs from
ponds, and blocking access to waterholes.
If you have a native frog / fish pond that you want to protect, a half
a metre high fence around it does a pretty good job.
If you are from
southern parts of Australia, you
may have never seen a cane toad.
You will most likely see them in the bush and around human dwellings
while you are up here, but if not there
is a great chance not only to see them but also to get up and close.
The place is the famous Iron
Bar in Port Douglas, and as you see people are quite happy
not only to hold them but even kiss them!
Run by a guy from the Hartley Crocodile Adventure, it's good fun and a
chance to win some prizes.
participant will have to get
their toad going, and the quickest ones win drinks, dinner vouchers and
entrance tickets to the Hartley Crocodile Adventure, but most of all it's worth watching
for a good laugh :-)
this 50 pages
guide totally for FREE.
contains information that helps you getting started with planning of your trip.
You get to make early-stages desicions such as when to go, how long time you
should take, how to get
there and get
to stay (general info), what
will it cost..
and a short insight to what is there to see and do in Cape York.
This complete 300 pages
travel guide is all you need before and during your trip. Besides the
background chapters on the peninsula's history and wildlife; and the comprehensive detail about all
the places (down to prices, opening hours and full contact
detail), it has invaluable information on at least 10 four wheel drive tracks,
at least 30 guaranteed FREE
camping spots on the Cape (and at least 150 on your way to
the Cape), at least 40 best
swimming holes, all mapped; as well as practical things -
from fuel, roads, wireless internet and mobile phone reception,
how to deal with the national
parks booking rules; and Aboriginal land entrance and camping permits
and alcohol restrictions - to vehicle preparation and accessories and necessary recovery
gear by my partner
Mark who is the recovery guy on northern Cape York and the Old
Not to mention locals'
tips on how to spot that croc and palm cockatoo ;-)
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