It’s 9.30 pm and my husband is outside, in the dark - a bright beam from his hand-held torch shining in front of him. Neighbours probably wonder what this man is doing at around the same time, every night. ‘Is his wife nervous and needs assuring that there are no criminals or strange animals out in the yard?’
No. He’s looking for cane toads.
Before we left Victoria to come and live on the south east coast of Queensland, we knew about the dreaded cane toad and how it was wreaking havoc with our wild life; killing much of anything that tried to eat it and eating things that were needed by our native species. We read about its poison gland and saw pictures of it in all its ugliness.
We read about how colonies of this awful pest were marching forever westwards, and reports were telling that it had reached the magnificent and precious Kakadu National Park.*
We had visited Kakadu a few years earlier. We had clambered up the steep escarpments and admired and swooned over the views and the bird life.
The thought that cane toads could be infiltrating this beautiful part if Australia was almost too hard to bear.
We decided that, when we became Queenslanders, we would join what we imagined would be hundreds of Queenslanders joined in their efforts to eradicate this awful menace.
After settling into our Gold Coast home, we brought up the subject of the cane toad, only to be met with strange looks and a sort of ‘who cares?’ attitude.
‘There aren’t many around here’, said some.
‘You occasionally see a squashed one on the road, but that’s about all’.
Why would there be cane toad bodies, squashed on the road, if there weren’t many around?
They must come out at night was the answer.
‘Do you ever look outside, after dark?’ I asked.
‘Nah, there aren’t any here.’
So, that’s when my husband started his nightly rambles by torchlight.
The result? Cane toads – big ones, small ones, middle-sized ones – cane toads in our suburban Gold Coast yard.
As he finds them, he gathers them up (carefully) into plastic bags,
Then, what does he do with them? You may well ask.
The plastic bags containing toads go into the fridge, where the toads go into a sort of hibernating sleep.
Once they are well asleep (usually the next day) they are transferred to the freezer, where the tranquil sleep turns into something more than a doze - and they slip into a painless death.
And, then what?
Well, when the human food in the freezer seems to be in danger of being crowded out by frozen cane toads it’s time to deliver the frozen catch.
There’s a not-for profit organisation called, “Watergum” – where a dedicated group of volunteers “help the community engage in real, on-ground work to restore, maintain& protect the natural environment”.….There’s lots they do
And one of their tasks is…
“The Cane Toad Challenge - a revolutionary new method of cane toad control that uses the toad’s own toxins against them. Lures made from toxic cane toad glands tempt tadpoles into traps that can catch upwards of 4000 in one go”.
So, that's where we take them.
Thank you, Watergum !
At least we have found one group of Queenslanders doing their bit to help rid us of the cane toad.
BUT….My question to other Queenslanders - and Northern Territorians is:
Why isn’t EVERYONE out and about EVERY night trying to rid us of this bloody toad?
There’s only so much one old bloke and a torch can do!
*……….Biodiversity in Kakadu National Park has been "decimated" by cane toads in recent years, with some species disappearing from sight altogether, according to one of the NT's leading toad experts. (ABC Feb, 2019)
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.