VIEWS: 10 PAGES: 2 POSTED ON: 11/18/2011
Summary The cane toad, Bufo marinus, is originally from Venezuala, and introduced to Australia in 1935. The toad was brought in intentionally to consume the Frenchi Beetle and the Greyback Beetle, that were stunting or even killing off the sugar cane crops in Australia. As it turned out, the cane toad could not jump high enough to reach the Beetles and discovered other more accessible insects to consume. The cane toad found an environment with plenty of accessible food and few threatening predators. The introduction was further exacerbated by the use of roads as further spread across Australia for the cane toad. The toad prefers relatively open areas to dense ones, making the roads optimal for easy mobility. To date the cane toad has expanded to a size of over one million square kilometers throughout Australia. Its ability to reproduce quickly may also be a factor in the invasion, the female toads lay between 80000 and 35000 eggs about twice a year. From this 0.5 %survive to start the cycle over again. The toads not only eats harmless insects, which compete with other native insectivores, but are extremely poisonous to the predators of frogs and toads. Their skin secrets a toxin that will kill most animals if ingested and can create dangerous hallucinations for humans. Lizards and snakes are two of the predators that have seen drastic decline in population due to the cane toad’s toxicity. Quolls, another predator of the toad, has dropped to extinction levels, causing action from organizations and the government to remove the species to safe havens outside of Australia. The cane toad has recently entered into the Homebush Bay area, which is home to an endangered frog species, the Green and Yellow bell frog. Raising fear that these species will too become extinct to their native home of Australia. Aboriginal tribes have been the hardest hit from the impact of cane toads on their daily lives. An example of a tribe is the Yanyuwa who live in the Northern Territory. The Yanyuwa view resource management as a management of people, the spiritual world, and the interrelationship between the environment. This tribe has lived in a sustainable fashion with its available resources in the harsh environment of the Northern Territory. The cane toad disrupts this sense of life. In the manner of their subsistence, the cane toad has demolished populations of goannas and blue-tongue lizards, the primary economic activity of the women in the Yanyuwa. Today the goanna are too few and too small to be beneficial for the tribe and the blue-tongue lizards are rarely even seen. The loss of economic activity also has a beep effect on the culture of the Yanyuwa as well. Hunting is a bonding activity for families, an important time to teach about kin and country that no longer exists. While the impact on city dwellers is less intense, there is still reason for animosity against the toad all over Australia. The toad can kill pets and taint drinking troughs. It can also contaminate swimming pools throughout the Northern Territory. This can spark individuals to try and take the problem into their own hands, by killing the toads themselves or with the help of their community, though it seems to hardly make a dent. Beyond this there is also a fear this toad will further contribute to the loss of important biodiversity of Australia that has unknown benefits. Response to the cane toad invasion was slow, but recently the government and many other organizations have stepped in to try and find a way of eradicating the cane toad from Australia. One hope for the future is to find a virus that would disrupt the development of the toads, though to date this has been unsuccessful. Research is also investigating how the population is controlled in its native habitat in hopes of finding a solution there. What will work is unclear, but the government is set to spend up to seven million dollars on the fight against cane toads. While there has been little research on the direct effects of toads on the Australian economy, it has been recognized that the cane toad contributes to the hundreds of millions of dollars lost in agricultural output and environmental damage done by invasive species. The fear of impact from cane toads and all other non native species is the spreading of disease, predation or herbivory, which contributes to the altering of vegetation and fire regimes, and displacing or eliminating species. All of these issues are thought to impact biodiversity, which most people want to maintain worldwide. Australia is responding to the invasion, but what or if there will be a solution to this or other invasive species, is still unclear.
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