Cane toads

Cane toad

Cane toads are on the march across northern Australia. Not only do they produce a poison that can kill predators that try to dine on them, their eggs are also poisonous.
Photo: Greg Calvert

Savanna Links

You can read about research on the toad's effect on the northern quoll in Kakadu National park in Savanna Links, Issue 26.You can also read about a rescue progam for quolls by relocating them on nearby islands. Click here.

Cane toads were introduced to the sugar cane fields of Queensland early last century. Since then they have spread throughout the moist coastal region of Queensland and northern New South Wales. They have also moved inland, mainly by following creek lines and spreading out during floods. These animals produce a powerful poison which can kill the predators that eat them. The toad's eggs are also poisonous.

Impact on environment

The effect of the toads on native ecosystems is still unclear. The northern spotted quoll (native tiger cat) has diminished in areas with cane toads. We know that the carnivorous quolls attack their prey fiercely in the neck region. This is where the toad's poison glands are and quolls quickly die from the encounter.

It therefore seems likely, although it is not proven, that a decline in quolls can be attributed, at least in part, to the cane toads. Goannas and snakes may also be killed when they try to eat the toads. However, recent evidence suggests that goannas can be become 'toad-wise', learning to leave the animals alone after a taste of the poison on the skin. It is also possible that the cane toad's eggs can poison the tadpoles of other amphibians, which eat eggs.

Spread of species

The march of the cane toad is continuing within the tropical savannas. The toads need water, and therefore tend to congregate around creeks or waterholes in dry times. The crowd of toads tends to eat all available prey (such as native insectivorous birds and lizards) in that area. Any effects have not been quantified.

Cane toads reached Kakadu National Park in 2001, and were first recorded in the south-east at the junction of Gimbat Creek and a creek from Mt Evelyn in April of that year. Since then they have spread northwards and westwards across the Park with sightings now occurring in Jabiru.e.

Most experts consider that beyond possibly affecting tourism in pristine native ecosystems the toads have relatively little economic impact. The animals do not seem to be a serious threat to pastoralism in savannas.

For the latest on the spread of the cane toad visit the Frogwatch website , link below, site which is being continually updated with the latest sightings of the toad. To see a recent list of research findings on cane toads click here .


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Quolls decline with advance of toads

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