"In the beginning"


The views expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of the blog management, (on the other hand, they are not necessarily not the views of the blog management).

No effort has been made to stay within the bounds of the truth in this blog as it has always been the view of the management that the truth should never be allowed to stand in the way of a good story.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pests within Australia 3

At the start of this series I was very critical of the early white settlers for importing the pests I have described into Australia, in the case of the Cane Toad it was "enlightened thinkers" a mere 75 years ago who decided to import Cane Toads as a measure of combating beetles which were devastating their sugar cane crops, the rest, as they say, is history

This fairly innocent looking creature has been an environmental disaster.

This map shows both the current situation and the predicted distribution.

A few years ago, an Australian Minister of Parliament from the Northern Territory sparked outrage from animal welfare groups, and probably a chuckle of recognition and commiseration among everyone else, with his comments on cane toads. David Tollner, the lawmaker in question, urged people on Australian radio to club toads to death with golf clubs and cricket bats, remarking these methods were commonplace when he was a young man, and he had partaken in such activities himself. For anyone who has had to deal with these insufferable creatures, they know where Tollner is coming from, even if they do not agree with his method of extermination.

Before 1935, Australia did not have any toad species of its own. What the country did have however, was a major beetle problem. Two species of beetles in particular, French's Cane Beetle and the Greyback Cane Beetle, were in the process of decimating the state of Queensland's sugar cane crops. The beetle's larvae were eating the roots of the sugar cane and stunting, if not killing, the plants. The anticipated solution to this quickly escalating problem came in the form of the cane toad. After first hearing about the amphibians in 1933 at a conference in the Caribbean, growers successfully lobbied to have the cane toads imported to battle and hopefully destroy the beetles and save the crops.

In early 1935, a box containing 102 toads from Hawaii -- one place that had already brought in the amphibians for a similar purpose -- arrived in Gordonvale, a small town just south of Cairns. After a short time in captivity, the population had multiplied to reach 3000, and in July of 1935, the cane toads were released into the fields. Initially, some naturalists and scientists warned of the risks in loosing the toads and protested. After a brief moratorium, the releases resumed in 1936. Australians, know the rest all too well.

The plan backfired completely and absolutely. As it turns out, cane toads cannot jump very high, only about two feet actually , so they did not eat the beetles that for the most part lived in the upper stalks of cane plants. Instead of going after the beetles, as growers had planned, the cane toads began going after everything else in sight--insects, bird's eggs and even native frogs. And because the toads are poisonous, they began to kill would-be predators.

The toll on native species has been immense.

So returning now to Mr. Tollner's controversial remarks, almost all Australians, save for only the most rabid of amphibo-philes, agree that the cane toads must be destroyed. Despite the vigorous and colorful means of destruction, Tollner's method is inadvisable beyond its basic cruelty, as cane toads are likely to spray poison under the intense blows of a club or a bat, with the assailant running the risk of being temporarily blinded or worse. It is better to do as animal welfare groups suggest as the most humane and practical mode of killing, which is to put them in the freezer for a few hours and dispose of them.

Another humane method of getting rid of cane toads that I can personally vouch for is to arm yourself with a spray bottle filled with “Detol”, I believe any similar antiseptic would work, a roam around your chosen hunting ground at night with a torch and the spray bottle will yield the desired prey if you have a cane toad infestation, all that is required are a few droplets of the spray (you don’t need to drown them) to contact the skin of the toad which then simply hops away calmly (but not very far) the bodies will be found next morning stiff dead and without any decaying smell. We never encountered any problem with birds or animals eating the carcass’ and being poisoned, maybe because of the antiseptic smell on the bodies????

Nor should we ignore the opportunity to destroy the strings of eggs which are laid in shallow water along the banks of dams, in old rainwater tanks or any suitable puddle the toads can find, all that is required here is to drag the eggs onto dry land where they cannot hatch.

I have included this photo only as an illustration of how large these toads can grow given the ideal circumstances.


Jack K. said...

Yikes, that is one big toad. I'm not sure a golf club would do the job.

kenju said...

Good Lord, he's huge! You'd need a baseball bat!

Janell said...

EEW! That toad gives me the creeps! We have a bunch of rabbits on our place and they, too, are chewing up some of my lilac bushes and. Yes, they're cute, but hazardous to the health of our ornamentals. You have some interesting things going on down there and an interesting way of telling about them.

I laughed out loud at several of the things from your inbox clearing out post.

Walker said...

HOLY CRAP!!!!!!!!
That's a monster.
Why don;t they just load planes with that stuff and spray the whole area and to hell with the animals lovers.
They can pack them, up and go back to Hawaii with them

Dave said...

WOW! Look at the size of that thing!!!

I think I'd faint if I ever saw something that big.. *LOL*

linda may said...

G'Day Pete,
Interesting. Aren't those toads ugly bloody things and we will never get rid of the bunnies, just slow them down temporarily I reckon.That prickly pear, I never knew how it got here. My grand father used work on a program to get rid of it with the local council in Merriwa in the hunter valley.

Puss-in-Boots said...

I hate cane toads, ugly things they are. We have a few here, not too many as we have lots of frogs which we wouldm't if we had too many cane toads. It's an ongoing war we wage on them.

Apparently red belly black snakes can eat them as they are immune to the poison and the crows and magpies have found a way of flipping a toad over so they don't get sprayed by the poison...I say apparently. I've never actually seen that happen, but who knows?

Big Dave T said...

So is that what inspired that Simpson's episode when they went to Australia? Interesting.

Hea, I took your advice and put comment moderation on older posts. At least it makes the spam MUCH easier to control.

Pamela said...

I watched a natl geo show that said you guys were cooking them into fertilizer?