Cane toad strikes out for New Zealand!

Not content with conquering the north of Australia, and slowly making its way to the south, the cane toad (Bufo marinus) seems to have set its sights on our neighbour across the ditch, New Zealand.

I’d seen the silver gulls harassing something on South Ballina Beach, and recognised the gait as that of a frog. And was bowled over to discover it was a big, boofy Bufo! Perhaps it was trying to escape from the gulls – it was a long way from the dune vegetation. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself, hopping its way into the seawater at South Ballina Beach – New Zealand here we come!

The cane toad was deliberately  introduced to Queensland in 1935 to eat beetles doing damage to commercial sugar cane plantations. It is a native of Central and South America. It didn’t succeed in controlling the beetles, soon bred prolifically and has been making its way across the continent ever since. It reached our place in northern New South Wales about four years ago, and in summer we see several a night around the house. Its call is somewhat like a lawn mower – a steady rattle. The recommended humane method of disposal is to keep it in a refrigerator for a few hours (to put it into dormancy), then freeze it solid. Some other people are not so kind, but there’s no need for vindictiveness.

Cane toads are poisonous at all stages of their lives, from eggs to adults. Anything eating them – birds, lizards, other frogs, snakes, fish, crocodiles – will get very sick or die. Occasionally we hear or read reports  about a particular species being able to survive, or a bird learning to turn over the body before attacking (the poison glands are on the top, behind the head), but in general the outlook is pretty grim for many species. Fortunately the eggs are very easy to tell from those of other frogs, so you can destroy them when you see them.

In the photo below you can see the poison glands right behind the eyes, level with the ‘forearms’. Pet dogs have been poisoned by drinking water from bowls a toad has been sitting in. Alas, there are so many of them, they’re here to stay.

Cane toad at Larnook, northern New South Wales

This entry was posted in Animals on land, Frogs and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Cane toad strikes out for New Zealand!

  1. Whoa! How big is that thing? (Looks big for a toad.)

    And isn’t this just the same story everywhere…these big-brained creatures thinking they have a really good idea, and introducing starlings or kudzu or rabbits or English ivy or fill-in-the-blank into an utterly inappropriate and unprepared place.

  2. Joy Window says:

    I think the picture must have been taken close up. They are not as big as, say, your American bullfrog – the biggest frog I’ve ever seen. Heck, every its tadpoles are huge!
    I put up the photo of the American Bufo marinus as I didn’t have my own shot. I noticed but did not mention that the colours are quite different to ours.
    I just went out to the paddock and – lo and behold! – there was one of ours, so I’ve added that photo. It’s winter here, but the days have been warming up and the toads coming out of their torpor.
    My local toadie is about 14 cm (5.5 inches) from nose tip to rear end.

  3. When life gives us lemons, we make lemonaid:

    On a more serious note, while in Kuranda, Queensland ten years ago, the density of marinus was quite disturbing. They were everywhere! We have a similar problem with Rana catesbeiana (bullfrog) in the western US, where it was introduced (for food?), only it’s outcompeting and predating indigenous fauna instead of poisoning it, although I’m sure there are competition issues with marinus in Australia, as well. A friend of mine, Randy Jennings, is leading an effort to save the endangered Rana chiricahuensis from R. catesbeiana and the chytrid fungus among other threats. I wish him well…

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