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.
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.
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 …
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!
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 …