Taiwan’s ecosystem faces threat from poisonous toad species

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The toxins found in cane toads can be fatal to humans and even pets like dogs and cats if they get into the eyes or mouth. (Image credits: Shutterstock / Representative)

Buffalo toads release a milky white toxin called bufotoxin from their skin when faced with a threat.

The island nation of Taiwan is threatened by a specific species of amphibians. The cane toad, scientifically known as Rhinella marina, is a highly poisonous toad species native to the Americas. The toxins found in cane toads can be fatal to humans and even pets like dogs and cats if they get into the eyes or mouth. Buffalo toads release a milky white toxin called bufotoxin from their skin when faced with a threat. The toxin oozes from the glands behind their eyes and is fatal to most animals.

Although toads are considered auspicious in Taiwanese culture, this particular species poses more threats than benefits. According to an NBC News report, volunteers from the Taiwan Amphibian Conservation Society worked with flashlight to round up toads late at night last week and collected as many as 300.

The presence of invasive toads in the area was first reported by a local resident on a farm in a small town in Taiwan’s central mountain range. After researchers in Taiwan learned of a possible toad invasion, volunteers from the Taiwan Amphibian Conservation Society immediately went to the farm to investigate.

Cane toads are native to 14 countries but are found in over 40 countries. They are also listed as one of the 100 worst invasive species. The list is overseen by the Invasive Species Specialist Group, an international advisory body of scientists and policy experts.

Speaking to NBC News, volunteer Guava Tsai said she hopes to minimize the impact of invasive species by collecting them to protect their own local species. Another Taiwan Amphibian Conservation Society volunteer, Feng Chen, told NBC News that if cane toads were to spread across Taiwan, it would certainly be devastating for Taiwan’s ecosystem. Rick Shine, an amphibian and reptile specialist at Macquarie University in Sydney, told the media website that the toxins released by the toads caused the deaths of several dogs.

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