Saturday, July 09, 2011

Cane toads

Cane toads (Bufo marinus) are natives of South and Central America. They were introduced into Australia in 1935 to help control the beetles which were decimating our sugarcane crops. Cane toads were useless in controlling the cane beetles but they have become a serious threat to native wildlife, invading wetland habitats and competing with native frogs. They are voracious eaters and will eat anything they can fit in their mouths, including frogs, lizards, snakes and small marsupials. The toxic toads are also a threat to any animals that try to eat them, including domestic pets. A dog can die in just 15 minutes after eating a cane toad.

Cane toads have adapted particularly well to the Australian environment. They are spreading west towards Kakadu National Park and south into New South Wales at the rate of 30km a year. According to the CSIRO, cane toads occur at a density in Australia 10 times higher than the density in their native Venezuela. In the past two months, toads have been discovered in suburbs across Sydney where they have never been found before, and there is concern that permanent colonies will soon become established. It is thought that the toads are inadvertently being transported south in consignments of building materials and landscaping supplies.

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