Cane Toad History in Australia

Cane Toad History in Australia

A history and facts of cane toads in Australia.

Cane toads are native to South and Central America. They are extremely hardy animals and voracious predators of insects and other small prey.  These qualities led to their introduction into Australia as a means of controlling pest beetles in the sugar cane industry in 1935, before the use of agricultural chemicals became widespread.

The 102 cane toads that began the Australian invasion (51 males and 51 females) were sourced from Hawaii, where they had in turn been imported from Puerto Rico.  It took one week for the toads to start laying eggs, and another three days for the eggs to start hatching. Within weeks they had thousands.  The toads were initially released around Cairns, Gordonvale and Innisfail, with subsequent releases at Ingham, Ayr, Mackay and Bundaberg.  Cane toads reached Brisbane in 1945, Byron Bay in 1965, the Northern Territory in 1984 and Western Australia in 2009.

Although cane toads exude a highly toxic substance, they only do this when under direct threat on their lives.  There is no evidence that cane toads poison waterways or spread disease.

Vets also warn pet owners of the dangers of letting domestic animals “mouth” cane toads. Animals absorb the poison through their lips and gums and can die in 30 minutes.  Information on symptoms and treatment can be found here  If you do find your pet drooling excessively, with red gums, vomiting or paralysed, rinse their mouth out with cool running water for at least 10 minutes and observe them closely. If they show signs of cane toad poisoning, take them to the vet immediately.

In 2006, the West Australian government employed the country’s first cane toad sniffer dog, Nifty the Belgian malinois, to help detect cane toads bearing down on its border with the Northern Territory.  Nifty was used on Stradbroke Island to find cane toads at the tip and around the wharf areas where toads hitch a ride on ferries, in boats and eskies.  This effort was part of the Moreton Bay Oil Spill clean-up, and there was a greatly increased number of visitors to the island.