Monday, May 22, 2006

Monster Toad

No, it's not a bad name for an equally bad garage band.

The good people of Darwin, Australia, recently nabbed a giant toad. That's right. A giant toad.
The monster female toad weighing 564 grams and measuring 16.8cm was found at Ludmilla.

Jenny Brooks found the toad in her front yard while gardening.

"I went out to plant some seedlings and it was right near the fence. I didn't know if it was a cane toad, I thought it may have been too big," she said.

FrogWatch NT removed it from the Brooks's yard.

"It's the biggest toad we are aware of," FrogWatch NT co-ordinator Graeme Sawyer said.

Mr Sawyer said he didn't know if the toad had hitched a ride or found its way there.

"It's hard to say how she got here although she's got the potential to walk here," he said.

Lance and Jenny Brooks said it was the first toad they had seen at their house.

Mr Sawyer said despite the toad's size and its closeness to Darwin, the Territory was winning the war on toads.

"By all intents and purposes they should have reached Darwin in their hundreds by now," he said.

Mr Sawyer said now was the time to start checking back yards for toads. The toad will not be turned in to fertiliser but will become FrogWatch NT's mascot.

"We'll take her on trips to shows and schools," he said.
Wouldn't it be nice if we here in America could have a war on toads? Or are they not fearsome enough?

Cane toads got to Australia by human action, as there were no toads on the continent before the 20th century.

Like a whole host of other species that were either accidentally or deliberately introduced to Australia, the cane toad has been a complete disaster for Oz. And down South we thought we had it bad with fire ants and kudzu.

The toad was brought in to eat cane beetles in sugarcane fields. No one bothered to notice that the cane toad doesn't jump high enough to eat the beetles on the upper parts of the sugarcane stalks, and when all the beetle larvae are near the ground (whence they hatch from eggs), there aren't any adult toads around (they mature later in the year). The point is, the toads didn't do anything to control the cane beetles, and farmers had to go back to using insecticides to kill off the insects. The toads, meanwhile, began to establish themselves in a new environment.


So the toads have gone on, multiplied like crazy, and made giant nuisances of themselves. Oh, and eaten up a whole lot of native species, (and everything else) too. In addition, the cane toad is poisonous to predators at every stage of its life. They produce bufotoxin, which isn't nearly as funny as it sounds. So there aren't any animals that can check the toad population by, say, eating lots of the little buggers (though a few birds and rats have learned how to eat them without ingesting poison). The Australians are working on several ways of getting rid of the toads, including a genetically engineered virus.

Poor Australia. It was already home to so many extremely dangerous snakes and spiders when white folks got there. Now they have to deal with fire ants, cats, foxes, rabbits, goats, cane toads, wasps, yellow crazy ants (no, I'm not making that name up), camels (camels!) and the goddamn reef-destroying crown-of-thorns starfish, just to name a few. Of course, the rats and mice that attend Eurasian human settlement made their way to Australia, too.

At least they do not yet have to deal with hypnotoads.

All glory to the Hypno Toad!

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