‘Cane toad bust’ aims to reduce threat to native species as population tops two billion

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In 1935, 102 cane toads were brought to Queensland in an attempt to control the sugar cane beetles that were decimating the sugar cane crops.

Nearly 90 years later, it is estimated that more than two billion cane toads now live in four states.

In a bid to curb the population of destructive toads, community environmental organization Watergum is planning its first cane toad bust, starting Monday, January 24.

Watergum’s invasive species manager, Emily Vincent, said it was important that all communities were involved as cane toads posed a threat to the environment and native species.

“Everyone knows that cane toads are very toxic to native species, so any animal that tries to precede them will be poisoned and most likely will die,” she said.

“That’s how they monopolize an area and hunt native animals.”

An anti-toad volunteer finds a chain of cane toad eggs in a jelly-like substance hidden under the leaves of a dam.(Provided: Scott Lenton)

According to Vincent, each female cane toad can produce up to 70,000 tadpoles each year.

“Unlike frogs, these babies grow very quickly,” she said.

“They will only be tadpoles for three weeks, whereas frogs take up to two months, so they can invade an area very quickly.

“Cane toads are now well established in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and throughout Queensland.

The public can help save native species

As part of efforts to limit cane toad populations, Watergum is releasing its first cane toad bust on January 24.

The goal is to get as many people outdoors as possible during that week to remove fertile adults from the environment before they have a chance to breed.

“We need Australians to step up and work together to have an impact on cane toads nationwide. The more people involved, the greater our impact,” the Watergum website says.

“If you remove fertile adults before they have a chance to reproduce, you prevent the next generation, giving native species a chance to reclaim their habitat.”

A hand in a yellow glove holding a cane toad
Watergum is encouraging people to go “busting the toads” in their area starting January 24. (Provided: Watergum)

Participants are encouraged to register on the Watergum website to collect data on the number of cane toads.

“Our website has an interactive map where you can record your session, so we can see where people are going and how many cane toads they are removing,” Ms Vincent said.

“Our website also has information on the ability to tell the difference between a cane toad and a native frog.

The website also allows participants to join other toad control groups, register their own group, or simply participate as an individual.

Two Watergum volunteers set up a cane toad tadpole trap at the edge of a stream.
Watergum volunteers set up a cane toad tadpole trap at the edge of a stream.(Provided: Watergum)

Volunteers urged to kill toads ‘humanely’

As the culling of cane toads in Australian backyards has become a cruel family sport, Ms Vincent is asking that people who take part in the cane toad bust have the facilities to dispose of cane toads humanely.

“It is important to be as humane as possible when euthanizing cane toads.

“Remember, it’s not their fault they’re on the wrong continent, they were put here by humans, and they’re just trying their best to survive, like everything else.”

A group of people with torches scouring a sports field for cane toads
A group of volunteers breaking cane toads.(Provided: Watergum)

According to Watergum, the most humane way to dispose of cane toads is to put them in the fridge for 24 hours, then transfer them to the freezer for another 24 hours.

“Once they’re in the fridge, then they go into a state where they can’t smell anything when you put them in the freezer,” Ms Vincent said.

For more information on the “Cane Toad Bust” or to register go to

watergum.org/greatcanetoadbust/

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