Only in OZ #16 – Cane Toad World, Gordonvale, Far North Queensland

Mosaic Cane Toad at Cane Toad World, Gordonvale, QLD

Mosaic Cane Toad at Cane Toad World, Gordonvale, QLD

Well, the government was never going to do it – and it probably didn’t occur to anyone else. So when casting about for something other than its 100 year sugar milling history to put it on the map, Gordonvale, deep in the wet tropics of Queensland’s far north, didn’t have to fight too hard for the right to immortalize what is arguably Australia’s worst environmental disaster.

As one of the original 1935 Bufo Marinus (aka ‘Cane Toad’) release sites, Gordonvale’s sugar industry was under threat from pests including the cane beetle. So it was well placed to observe the effects of Cane Toad introduction and their subsequent, and somewhat successful takeover bid for Australian environmental supremacy.

Entrance to Cane Toad World, Gordonvale, QLD

Entrance to Cane Toad World, Gordonvale, QLD

While there’s no doubt the government ‘experts’ meant well, the simple hypothesis that sounded so viable on paper (ie Bufo Marinus = cane beetle predator, SO introduction to OZ = cane beetle eradication = healthy sugar industry) just didn’t work in reality.

Why not?

Well … place a toxic toad – with no local natural predators and so spoilt for dietary choices it almost completely ignores the cane beetle – into Australian conditions, near ideal for adaptation and invasion?

HHHMMMmmm… what could go wrong??

Then add in a significant reduction in native species that feed on toads and tadpoles.

Oh, and bufotenin, a chemical secreted by the toad? It’s a Class 1 drug – although toad licking as a form of ingestion may be a bit extreme …

Cane Toads (complete with tongue) in Cane Toad World playground

Cane Toads (complete with tongue) in Cane Toad World playground

From the original 1935 release of 102 Hawaiian toads, numbers in Australia are now thought to exceed 200 million! So apart from a weird line of novelty gift products, controversial use in informal sports, and a cult-status documentary about the cane toad invasion, what does a nation like OZ do with a predator like Bufo Marinus?

Give it its very own Cane Toad World, of course!

But suppress those visions of being photographed with a cane toad, the Big Cane Toad, cane toad rides and cane toads in song!

Cane Toad World currently consists of the cane toad story in mosaic mural and a cane toad themed playground.  Just a little bit anticlimactic … unless, of course, it’s still in development!

A mosaic history of Cane Toads in Australia - at Cane Toad World!

A mosaic history of Cane Toads in Australia – at Cane Toad World!

But on another level, the mosaic unashamedly exposes the ongoing problems caused by the Bufo Marinus invasion and is therefore a caustic comment on government ‘expertise’ and ‘accountability’, implementing untested environmental solutions and the ongoing effects of such decisions on ordinary people.

So its really just as well we’ve introduced effective risk analysis methodologies, implementation guidelines, effective monitoring mechanisms and accountability frameworks so we’re not destined to repeat past mistakes, isn’t it?

Or we might be left with another infamous Aussie icon like the Cane Toad …

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30 comments

  • @Manzanita – I’m starting to think ‘authorities’ aren’t capable of managing anything, let alone nature. I suspect the cane beetle the toads were meant to eat was obliterated by insecticide – so we got a double whammy! Thanx for dropping by – enjoy your break!!!

  • Almost missed a post. I must have been sleeping. I don’t understand why people take it on themselves to “manage nature.” Like, “Who’s the boss of you?” Every introduction of animal or plant to another environment has ended in disaster. There is always a natural antidote to counteract any bites or harm done by an animal and then they are removed from this.
    I’m rambling. Time to go out and water my flowers. I have an extremely busy 2 weeks coming up so I may see you later (or not).
    Cheers to you and a friendly week coming your way.
    Manzanita@Wannabuyaduck

  • @Linda – we saw a sign to Cane Toad World, and of course just HAD to check it out! Glad you’re glad I did!!!

  • Linda ~ Journey Jottings

    That is sooo funny ~
    I’d never heard of Cane Toad World before –
    You come across some great ‘attractions’ on your travels 😉

  • @Courtney – Maybe advertising a free toad giveaway with each entry into the park would make it even more of a drawcard!!

  • WILD! This was a neat post about a plan gone awry that has led to the glorification of a crazy little toad. Loved it!

  • @River – or in our case, whatever gets them TO the next election!! Quick wins for instant gratification that give good media soundbites and hang the expense – but we’ve had that from both sides, haven’t we?!
    @PDP – I saw the WA ‘Stop the Cane Toad’ website and was SO impressed! Keep it up, and keep them out!
    @Bob Crunch – Welcome back, and thanx again for your kind comments! Come back anytime!
    @Sara – Welcome back to you too – something tells me OZ is quite different to Rome, so if you’re looking for a change, look no further!!
    @NJAMB – Hahaha, I bet you’re right!! I’m sure there are easier – and more pleasant – ways to get your kicks!!!

  • Not Just Another Mother Blogger!

    I often wonder who decided that it was a good idea to lick a toad. I am very sure that it wasn’t a girl, and that alcohol was involved.

  • Walking Tours Rome

    This looks like an intriguing place, to say the least! The more I read of your blog, the more I want to visit its inspiration. Keep up the good work!! 🙂

    Sara

  • Very interesting article and very interesting place.

  • PerthDailyPhoto

    They are so disgusting Red, I think we are actually fighting a huge battle to keep them out of Western Australia, not 100% sure if we’re winning but I hope so, they just seem to slip by somehow.

  • Government “experts” aren’t well known for thinking things through are they? The instant solution seems to be their style. Whatever gets them through the next election.

  • @Magsx2 – They’ve been sighted in nearly all states now. More progressive states like WA actually have eradication programs set up to minimise the impact! I hope they work …
    @Alessandra – Possums are protected on the OZ mainland as well, although they’re more of a pest in some areas than others! Saw some NZ made possum fur socks a while back – not quite on a par with the grotesque Cane Toad products available in OZ, but close …
    @Windsmoke – only some birds have adapted, my friend! More’s the pity …
    @Mrs Tuna – AAARRRGGGHH!! You win the YUCK factor today!! And the bathrooms there were unremarkable …
    @Jenni – welcome! And thanx for joining up – hope you enjoy!!

  • @Kathy – Yes, but why is it just us ordinary folks who realise that??!!
    @SaucyKodz – I’ll see your Giant Violin, and raise you a Golden Guitar!!! Stay tuned …
    @Linda – I chose to laugh – otherwise I would have cried! Our colonial forefathers had already introduced goats, pigs, cats, foxes etc, so another feral animal was just what we needed!
    @Andrew – either that, or it was political expedience … and who needs GM products when you’ve got faulty/flammable batts in your ceiling?!?!
    @Sailor – yes, I found the beauty of the mosaic a strange counterpoint to the ugliness of its subject!

  • @J&L – What? I haven’t inspired you to visit?? Well … at least I’ve left you with the disturbing mental image of toad licking, so my work is done!
    @Beach Bum – What? You need to TEACH kids to run away from large snakes?? Now THAT’S a problem I’ve never had!!
    @SFlaGuy – Maybe they’ve just gone into hiding … in OZ, there’s a few adaptations (eg some birds can safely eat them by flipping them over), but they still kill most things that attack them! And prolific breeding means eradication by ANY means just can’t keep pace!
    @diane b – Sadly, those being educated aren’t always the decision makers …
    @FruitCake – You think?!?! Weird you should mention the merino & pineapple – both may yet appear on this blog …

  • Hi, Im a new follower, loving the blog! Found you off boost my blog Friday. I would love to invite you to follow me:
    J’S REVIEWS AND GIVEAWAYS
    Thanks so much! have a great day!

  • I once was driving in florida during a massive toad hoard crossing the road. Let’s just say squished frogs are like driving on black ice. As well as icky. Did they at least have a bathroom there?

  • Our native birds have got wise to the cane toad and are flipping them over onto their backs slitting open their bellies and having a feast and surviving :-).

  • I am glad that there are not images of the toad itself, blah disgusting toad! I love frogs, especially little green ones, but I am not a fan of invasive animals, here in NZ we are forced to kill opossums (have a few traps in the bush myself, not a nice thing for a vegetarian to do, but hey, we have to, or they will eat the whole forest!) ad so I know well what you are talking about! but we haven’t made any ‘monuments’ to the opossum yet… usually they are the baddies in children story books and nursery rimes…

    Strange eh! And when I visited Tasmania they were protected there!!!

    ciao
    A.

  • Hi,
    I Didn’t know we had a toad park, unbelievable, I read awhile ago in one of the papers that the toad is now starting to infest NSW. I really hope scientists have learned a lesson and don’t repeat this more than stupid mistake.

  • Wonderful mosaic work on the first picture. Being eco friendly and going wild.
    Cruise Pictures

  • Like with calicivirus virus to control rabbit numbers, no doubt there was a lot of pressure on the authorities to quickly release the cane toad to ‘save the sugar cane’. We can only hope that a lesson was well learnt. So Red, would you like GM toast this morning, or naturalish.

  • I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. This is another one of those things that simply leaves me at a loss for words.

  • I think the giant toad and “Toady Park?” is much nicer than our own giant Violin in Harvy NB. We do not have a park nearby, however try playing a tune of the Violin Giant. ha,ha
    Nice pics and very interesting, kinda sounds like the way the eradication takes place here too. Great Blog OZ

  • When humans start messing with Mother Nature, we know who’s going to win in the long run!!!
    Love this post!!!

  • So much more tasteful than giant merino, pineapple etc. Thanks for sharing, this made my day!

  • I find it hard to believe there is such a place, but if it is to educate people about our past mistakes I guess it works, What is wrong with the pic……other than toads in trees.

  • I thought those were a South Florida toad but a little research and I find out they were introduced in 1936. When we moved here in 1978, we were at the vet the first week as our dog tried to bite one and started foaming at the mouth. She was fine after a while and was scared to death of them after that. They tended to sit in the water bowl and eat the dog food. So much to learn when moving to the tropics.

    They have been scarce in recent years. Maybe the pythons are eating them. I’ll have to do some more research.

  • Along those same lines for reasons I can’t figure out idiots here in the States started wanting pythons for pets a couple of decades ago. Now everything was okay while the snakes were small but once they started growing past one meter in length thing went down hill fast.

    In the state of Florida fearful python owners started releasing the python in the Everglades and the pythons started doing what pythons like to do, eating and making baby pythons.

    So now in South Florida among many other things they are doing trying to get a handle on this problem they are teaching first grade kids about running as fast as possible away from any large snake they see.

  • Jane and Lance Hattatt

    Hello:
    Well, perhaps we shall not be making the zilion mile round trip to Cane Toad World just yet. Perhaps, if we wait just a little longer there may be the Aussie equivalent of Disneyland [Toadyland?]to look forward to. And, of course, as with all good museums and exhibitions these days, there is bound to be a highly interactive element to Toadyland, so toad licking could well be the new order of the day!!! Yummmmm

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