Australia seems to be having a grand time winning its war against the toxic cane toad, killing thousands of them over the weekend during a “Toad Day Out” killfest in which the dreaded creatures were either frozen or placed in plastic bags filled with carbon dioxide. Kids took part in the “celebration” across northern Queensland, eating sausages and sipping cold drinks. Prizes were awarded as the toads (also called the Giant Toad or Marine Toad) were weighed.
According to a report by the Associated Press, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals praised the campaign to eradicate the poisonous toads since it was all done so very humanely. The widespread hunt makes sense, but you have to wonder about how appropriate it is to party while killing anything on a mass scale. Maybe you had to be there.
It appears the toads are an enemy of the farmer. The million-strong population of the amphibians has plagued crops, plants and native animals of the wide open grasslands. The report says many of the toads’ corpses will now benefit those very farmers as it is turned into fertilizer for their crops. That fertilizer production must be done carefully, as the corpses can still be toxic.
Problems with the toad date back to 1935, when they were imported from South Africa to control beetles on sugarcane plantations. But using the toads failed since they couldn’t jump high enough to eat the beetles atop the cane stalks. Instead, the toads – which can grow up to eight inches long – rapidly multiplied, threatening native animals and spreading diseases like salmonella.
The toads secrete bufotoxin from their glands, a milky-white fluid that proves toxic to many mammals, birds, frogs and insects and can kill humans if swallowed. They usually hunt at night and have been known to prey upon non-living entrees such as dog food and household trash.
Australia probably was impressed with the toad’s success at attacking pests in Puerto Rico. According to Wikipedia, the species was introduced there in 1920 to control the populations of white-grub, a pest of sugar cane. Within 12 years white-grubs were dramatically reduced. Toads got the credit, but there may have been other factors.
Local wildlife experts say killing a few thousand of the toads can ultimately wipe out millions of them, and the highly successful festival could become an annual event.