IT COULD be one of the world’s most unfairly maligned creatures. Despite its invasion of Australia, the cane toad has not triggered the overwhelming ecological disaster that some predicted.
Cane toads (Bufo marinus) were brought to Australia in the 1930s in an attempt to eradicate a beetle destroying sugar cane. They quickly spread (see map). Last year, the toads were found in Australia’s most western state for the first time. One downbeat local newspaper headline lamented: “Cane toad battle lost”.
Australia’s frog-eating predators, including snakes, crocodiles and the northern quoll – a type of marsupial – have been dying en masse after ingesting the poisonous invaders. The worry was that mushrooming toad populations would outcompete native frogs and birds too. With the elimination of these native species seemingly imminent, an ecological catastrophe looked on the cards.