Nature's Place

King Of The Castle


I enjoy looking around the garden at night. It is the little piece of earth I have dominion over, dominion as in responsibility for, not right to exploit rapaciously. I am responsible for the harmony of my little piece of Earth, as much as I can be.

And my little piece of earth includes my inner space, where I can be most responsible.

One of those responsibilities is to keep the place free of cane toads so that the native species can propagate and have some chance of populating the place according to their nature. The cane toad was introduced to QLD, Australia to help the sugar cane farmer’s deal with a beetle that was destroying the crop every year, an insect with the informative name of the sugar cane beetle. The toad was introduced because it has a voracious appetite, presumably for sugar cane beetles.

It really is astounding the short-sightedness of the people involved in this introduction. The cane beetle flies when it’s not on the ground and climbs in the cane when it’s not flying. The cane toad can neither fly nor climb; it has to sit there waiting for the beetle to land. But the beetle will only land when it has satisfied its first appetite, for food, sugar cane, if it lands at all. So, at best, the toad only gets the beetle after the damage is done to the crop. And so the toad is useless at its intended job of protecting the cane from the beetles.

The toad has a few other characteristics the consequences of which were foreseeable, but were apparently unforeseen. One is its robust nature, they are very hard to kill. I tried killing one with a spade one time and even after I broke its back it sat there staring at me. That also required such aggression from me I felt ill from it. I have heard of them being hit by a golf club and hopping away from it. You couldn’t do this to a native species.

Another characteristic is their prolific breeding capacity. Apparently one female can lay up to twenty thousand eggs at one time. A friend of a friend reported a plague of frogs not far from here where she lives next to an area of swamp, literally thousands of them in a very small area. One day she was seen dodging them by a local, doing her best not to kill the sweet little creatures, who explained they were toads and she should step on them not around them.

Combined with a robust nature and uber – fertility is their insatiable appetite for anything small and native. They eat everything that moves and fits in their mouth. This leaves little for the native predators and the native predators can’t eat the toad because of the poison glands on its back. No wonder the toad is reviled by any sensible Aussie.

The most astounding thing about the cane toad, after its introduction, is the fact there has been no coordinated attempt to eradicate or even control it. While it decimates the local wildlife. There are reports of it arriving in Kakadu National park, the most vitally alive park in Aus, and leaving it quiet and trackless in their wake as they advance. A fair military analogy would be a tank to a foxhole – at best. Toad is tank. And anything left behind in the foxhole after the tank rolls over it is damn lucky.

It really is a formidable eating and breeding machine killing everything in its path. One way or the other. (RIMG1024.JPG) I caught this one the night before soaking up the water from a dish I leave out for the creatures that may pass this way. (RIMG1008.JPG)

So when I do the rounds at night I am pleased to see the little green tree frog sitting on top of a red house brick I placed at the end of the rainwater tank. There is one frog or another on this red brick around an hour after dusk every night I go out at that time. It gives some command of the terrain, like a lookout tower, or a throne. (RIMG0819.JPG + RIMG0891.JPG + RIMG1216.JPG)

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