Yes, the week before last I was talking to you about fire ants and the danger they pose to Australia. Indeed, one source described them as the greatest ecological threat this country has seen since……………..
This ugly little critter. Of course, it is the cane toad. Before I tell you about the cane toad I just want to say that there is a very interesting twist to the story at the end.
The cane toad was introduced to Australia in 1935 to control the cane beetle. Big mistake! It didn’t control them and has since become a massive pest here in Australia. I don’t know where to begin to describe the problem with cane toads, But this is a start.
They will eat anything, meat, insects and plants. They breed fast, apparently a female cane toad can lay as many as 40,000 eggs in one season. But probably the biggest, baddest thing about the cane toad is that it is toxic. So any other animal who decides to eat a cane toad can become very ill or even die. It has been known for a large cane toad to poison a dog. So, cane toads are very bad Australia bad things.
I remember seeing a programme about cane toads probably about 10 years ago, when I was still living in England. The way they described the problem, I had visions of an Australia where it was almost impossible to walk down the street without stepping on several cane toads.
Who knows, perhaps 10 years ago it was like that. But it’s not too bad now. I bet I don’t see one a month as I go about my business but, having said that, it wasn’t difficult to get the photograph of the cane toad above.
Knowing I was going to be writing about cane toads soon, one evening I went outside to see if I could find one. Within two minutes I had my picture. They’re not too difficult to find when you look.
Here in Australia it is illegal to kill much of the wildlife. Snakes, for example, are protected. But not the cane toad. Help yourself! In fact the government give guidelines on the best way of killing a cane toad.
Section 42 of the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 allows the euthanasia of pest animals including cane toads provided the method of control is ‘done in a way that causes the animals as little pain as is reasonable’. And the recommended way of killing a cane toad is to:
1. Pop him in a plastic container.
2. Chill him for an hour in the fridge.
3. Then put him in the freezer compartment for 16 hours.
4. Finally, bury him or place him in a compost heap, away from pets.
And you all thought I was going to say smack him with a shovel!
I said there was a little twist in this tale and this is it. As mentioned, had the fire ant become uncontrollable as the cane toad currently is, it too would have presented as great an ecological threat as our ugly friend does. But recently, scientists in Sydney have discovered that another ant, the meat ant, could well be the new weapon against cane toads.
Meat ants can grow to up to a centimetre long and have big strong mouths, and they just love the taste of baby cane toads. Toxins and all. Even better, the native frogs (which we don’t want to harm) run (or hop) like billio from these scary ants, while the stoopid cane toad continues moving towards them. Ideal!
And the cane toad is stoopid, you can’t even chase them away….
My one concern with all this? In 10 years time I could be writing a blog post about giant meat ants, six to 8 inches long, devouring possums, small pets and …. scientists bringing in Amazonian Anteaters to help control the situation.