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Australian WildlifeWildlife Explorer
By Martin, Stella
Bradt Travel GuidesCopyright © 2010 Martin, Stella
All right reserved.
BOX The infernal toad
Brown, amphibious lumps hopping across northern lawns at night are likely to be cane toads (Rhinella – formerly Bufo – marina). A native of Central and South America it is, unfortunately, an increasingly common sight in Australia. It was introduced into Queensland, near Cairns, in 1935 in the misguided hope that it would eat the beetles devouring the sugar cane. With females producing up to 30,000 eggs a season it has since spread, at an average rate of 50km a year, into New South Wales and across the Northern Territory into Western Australia. This epitomises a biological control gone wrong. The toads both eat and compete with frogs, lizards, birds and small mammals. Worse, they are toxic. When they arrive in a new area, quolls disappear, poisoned by this new prey. Goannas and snakes decline, but eventually seem to learn to avoid them. Some animals such as ibises, keelback snakes and some turtles can eat them while kookaburras, water rats and crows learn to flip them over and eat their innards. Unfortunately, the tadpoles are also toxic and poison aquatic life, and toadlets, which are active by day, put diurnal creatures, such as frilled lizards, at risk. Growing up to 20cm in length, but usually 10–15cm, the toad is solidly built with bony ridges above the eyes, dry warty skin (frogs are moist) and bulging venom glands on the shoulders. Toad racing and toadbusting are popular pastimes but busters should be aware that some native frogs look quite like toads. Also, toads didn’t ask to come to Australia and should be treated humanely; freezing is the best way to kill them.
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