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Army Sent to Fight Millions of Invading Toxic Toads 273

Reporter writes "The Australian state government called for the army to be deployed against the invasion of toxic toads! Battalions of imported cane toads are marching relentlessly across northern Australia and the West Australian government wants soldiers to intercept the environmental barbarians. From the article: "The toads, Bufo Marinus, were introduced from South America into northeast Queensland state in the 1930s to control another pest: Beetles that were ravaging the sugar cane fields of the tropical northern coasts. But the toads now number in the millions and are spreading westward through the Northern Territory, upsetting the country's ecosystem in their wake. Cane toads have poisonous sacs on the back of their heads full of a venom so powerful it can kill crocodiles, snakes or other predators in minutes." More information about cane toads at Wikipedia."
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Army Sent to Fight Millions of Invading Toxic Toads

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <(eldavojohn) (at) (> on Monday June 19, 2006 @12:34PM (#15562260) Journal
    Well, the article doesn't say much about what the army is supposed to do except kill them. I highly doubt that's the strategy and, after being raised on farms in my youth, it's easier to use a trap or target the nests than to get down on your hands and knees and kill each and every one of them. In fact, even if you killed all the visible ones, how do you kill/remove all the tadpoles and eggs from the ponds and water in Australia? It would be obviously stupid to try to introduce another foreign species that might rampage about the land. Especially one that would be immune to the toad's toxin.

    It's odd that they deploy the military considering that current government research [] has been directed towards isolating a sex pheremone to disrupt the breeding cycle. The government fact sheet [] suggests removing the jelly strings of eggs from water & humane execution of adult cane toads. There are guides on Cane Toad control [] that talk about using traps but what do you do with the toads after you trap them. Will the Australian military be trudging through wetlands and collecting toad eggs while smashing the adults with specialized mallets? No one is alluding to the method of the military.

    Perhaps this is some left over funding that was appropriated to the military and now they feel like they have to spend it? Either way, I don't live in North Eastern Australia so I don't know what level of effect these toads are truly having.

    Here's a humorous Google Video [] on the cane toad. It's more just a dabble in CGI by film makers but I thought it worth mentioning given the topic.
  • by dmatos ( 232892 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @12:36PM (#15562269)
    I'm not not licking this toad.
  • A solution (Score:5, Funny)

    by mypalmike ( 454265 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @12:36PM (#15562272) Homepage
    Fortunately, there's an easy solution to this problem. It turns out that these toads can be made sterile if they eat enough kudzu, which they find to be extremely tasty. Just plant enough kudzu and this problem goes away completely.
  • by Wooster_UK ( 963894 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @12:37PM (#15562278) Homepage
    So evolved toxic toads are invading Darwin? You just can't make this sort of material up! I await posts of craven submission from Slashdotters willing to co-operate with the toxic toads.
  • Again!? (Score:5, Funny)

    by stinerman ( 812158 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {enits.nahtan}> on Monday June 19, 2006 @12:38PM (#15562289) Homepage
    You'd assume they learned their lesson from importing the rabbits.

    New species + no predators = I, for one, welcome our new poisonous toad overlords!
    • by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @01:28PM (#15562646)

      People never seem to learn this lesson. It doesn't matter that kudzu and dandelions and purple loosestrife and house sparrows and starlings and gypsy moths and buckthorn and... you get the picture: it doesn't matter that any given introduced species goes nuts and that other introductions meant to curb earlier mistakes blow up. People don't see how it could happen the next time. They just don't care that much.

      Head on down to your local plant nursery and consider what share of the plants there are native to your area. The percentage will be pitifully small unless you're in Hawaii or something. Hawaii takes plant imports very seriously. In my area, even when there's a perfectly good native species like American bittersweet vine, the nursery will decide to carry a eurasian species that has some slightly different quality. Bam: eurasian bittersweet swallows whole forests in the south. The native version didn't do that. Gee, I guess the difference was a little bit bigger than we thought.

      People could have planted native chestnut trees. They were the dominant species of non-mast food tree in eastern U.S. forests, and a huge wildlife habitat -- until they were wiped out by the chestnut blight brought over on shrubby eurasian chestnuts by plant nurseries. Didn't learn from that one either.

      If anything, where there are legal restrictions about plants, they're usually an encouragement not to plant natives. Introduced species are so much more civilized, or something.

      • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:28PM (#15563066) Journal

        Japanese Knotweed is another gem brought over that overruns disturbed areas (trails, roadsides, etc). I've worked with groups that try to control invasive species and it is a Sisyphisian task. You have to be 100% committed to it over many years. You have to tear their roots out or poison them season after season and get every little cluster of them.

        Here is one especially lovely plant that was brought over. The Giant Hogweed [] (sounds just lovely, doesn't it?). Get the sap in your eyes and it can blind you. Get it on your skin and you could be permanently scarred. Some were found growing in Western Massachusetts a few years back.

        Sometimes I think it would make more sense to genetically splice beneficial plants with invasives. Knotweed that grew oranges or Loosestrife that grew strawberries wouldn't be bad at all.

      • ...It doesn't matter that kudzu and dandelions and purple loosestrife and house sparrows and starlings and gypsy moths and buckthorn and... you get the picture:...

        Phew! For a second there I thought I was reading an un-aired Monty Python script.

        Don't forget to lobbith thy Holy Hand-Grenade.

      • Head on down to your local plant nursery and consider what share of the plants there are native to your area. The percentage will be pitifully small unless you're in Hawaii or something.

        Well, that depends on what you consider to be "native." Hawaiian ecology is essentially the result of several thousand years of successive waves of invasions. Every once in a while, a few new seeds blow in on the trade winds, or a stray flock of migrating birds gets lost, or something wanders in on driftwood. If it's a g
      • Don't worry.

        Monsanto will come up with a GMO variety any day now. That'll fix all the problems, with none of those silly "un-intended concequences".

        If the thing starts to get away on us, the makers will have a (very expensive) chemical tailor made to manage the problem.


        • Actually, this would be a perfect use of GMO organisms. They could, perhaps, arrange for a strain of plant or animal which dies out after a few generations--giving it enough time to reduce the toad population, but not becoming an issue in itself. Or yes, one with a chemical sensitivity which can be used to control it.
  • by InterruptDescriptorT ( 531083 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @12:39PM (#15562298) Homepage
    We'll lick these toxic toads one way or another.
  • by tscheez ( 71929 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @12:40PM (#15562300)
    Our top story, the population of parasitic tree lizards has exploded, and local citizens couldn't be happier! It seems the rapacious reptiles have developed a taste for the common pigeon, also known as the 'feathered rat', or the 'gutter bird'. For the first time, citizens need not fear harassment by flocks of chattering disease-bags.

    Later, Bart receives an award from Mayor Quimby outside the town hall. Several lizards slink past.

    For decimating our pigeon population, and making Springfield a less oppressive place to while away our worthless lives, I present you with this scented candle.

    Skinner talks to Lisa.

    Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.

    But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?

    No problem. We simply unleash wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.

    But aren't the snakes even worse?

    Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.

    But then we're stuck with gorillas!

    No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.
    • how about from Bart vs. Australia [] when bart introduces frogs to australia...

      "A subplot through the episode where Bart brought his pet frog into the country past customs. where it reproduces and spread rapidly throughout the country and ruins Australia's ecology (a reference to the actual introduction of non-native Cane Toads into Australia.)"

      I can't find the exact quote, but it's something like:

      Lisa: That's a frog
      Australian guy: Frog? That's a funny name for it. I'd have called it a wopple-dinge

    • Or the Bart vs. Australia episode: []

      Owner: [sweeping a bunch of toads out] Get out, get out! Shoo, shoo.
      Get out of here, yuck! These bloody things are everywhere.
      They're in the lift, in the lorry, in the bond wizard, and all
      over the malonga gilderchuck.
      Clerk: They're like kangaroos, but they're reptiles, they is.
  • Biological warfare (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nuggz ( 69912 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @12:42PM (#15562315) Homepage
    This is an example of what can happen if you use biological means to control a situation.

    There tends to be an unintended consequence, which often may be much worse than the origional affliction.

    Although I hope they think carefully about this type of behaviour in the future, I doubt it.
    The biological ideas they're coming up with to fight drugs in the US are much scarier than a few million frogs.
    • There tends to be an unintended consequence, which often may be much worse than the origional affliction.
      Who said this is worse than the original affliction of beetles? The story, alone, gives no indication of which is worse.
      • I didn't claim the frogs are worse than the beetle problem.

        I only stated that in many cases when they use biological or foreign species to control a problem it DOES end up worse than the origional problem.
    • You are right. Let's start pouring poisons into the streams and forests to kill off the nuisances.
    • This is an example of what can happen if you use biological means to control a situation.
      What? Are you suggesting to send robots instead of the live soldiers?
  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Monday June 19, 2006 @12:42PM (#15562326)

    Good day, gentlemen. As you are no doubt aware, I have recently perfected my race of genetically enhanced killer cane toads. My invincible batrachian army is currently rampaging across the continent of Australia, laying waste to all in their path. There is currently talk of deploying the Australian army to attempt to stem the tide of conquest...I'll tell you now that you needn't bother...the toads are quite unstoppable, and they only obey my commands.

    You see, gentlemen, things will only get worse...even now, cargo containers filled with thousands of my warty warriors are quietly being delivered to major cities in every country in the world. At my signal, these containers will be opened via remote control, releasing the toads to wreak havok upon your fragile environments. As the toads spread relentlessly, they will destroy entire ecosystems, severely compromising the food supply of the planet. As the global famine ensues, no place on the planet will be safe. You will fall upon one another like wolves...civilization as you know it will cease to exist...that is...unless you pay me...

    One hundred billion kajillion fafillion dollaaars!!!

    Gentlemen, you have my demands...peace out.
  • didnt RTFM (Score:5, Funny)

    by indy_Muad'Dib ( 869913 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @12:43PM (#15562336) Homepage
    france is invading australia?
  • by coaxial ( 28297 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @12:45PM (#15562360) Homepage
    Hopefully Her Royal Australian Army will meet with more success in the Great Toad War than they did in the Great Emu War [].
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I can only imagine as soldiers fire their atuomatic weapons wildely, all the time screaming "Pull Back, Pull Back, there's too many of them, Mate!"
  • by allanc ( 25681 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @12:46PM (#15562370) Homepage
    After this, they're just going to have to find some *bigger* predator to take out the Army. It's a neverending cycle.
  • by hyfe ( 641811 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @12:52PM (#15562418)
    about time, those French are bloody annoying!
  • Let the world be glad that these are only toxic toads and not Battletoads []. Of course if there was a world-wide rat infestation [] we would probably be very thankful for their help in eradicating the rodents.
  • Simple (Score:3, Funny)

    by njchick ( 611256 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @01:00PM (#15562470) Journal
    Make the toads lick each other.
  • by Lazbien ( 788979 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @01:10PM (#15562533)
    Slashdot: Blah Blah Blah Toads invading Australia
    Dougie: Simpsons Did It!

    Episode 6x16: Bart vs. Australia.
  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Monday June 19, 2006 @01:15PM (#15562561) Homepage Journal
    Diversity is strength. Australia is an inbred backwater of an ecosystem that needs to be enriched so it looks like the world. Predators who are foolish enough to eat poisonous frogs from more evolutionarily advanced ecosystems are doomed and we should celebrate their demise as the relentless march of evolution progresses ever onward to a glorious day when that heavenly brown-green-grey goo eats everything.
    • There are predators that can eat the cane toads without dying. Ravens flip the toads onto their backs and eviscerate them, without touching the poison sacs.

      You just need a clever native creature to oust the little pests.
  • by liak12345 ( 967676 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @01:26PM (#15562636)
    Australia deploys troops for Amphibious Warfare
  • Why doesn't the poison (strong enough to kill crocodiles) kill the toads? Same problem with other venomous animals. Why don't they die from their own poison?
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @01:54PM (#15562830) Journal
    ...but ultimately my money is on the toads.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 19, 2006 @01:58PM (#15562856)
    They kill their frogs with ESP.

    No, really!

    "A DIA 1975 report, "Soviet and Czechoslovakian Parapsychology Research, described "a scientific breakthrough of tremendous significance." Soviet scientists had reportedly learned that "psychic" abilities stemmed from a kind of brain energy. This energy, it was claimed, had been extracted from the brain into a beam. The beam was focused on houseflies, who "died instantly." A Soviet "killer psychic," one Nina Kulagina, was even able to "stop" the heart of a laboratory frog." []
  • by jaimz22 ( 932159 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:20PM (#15563000)
    let me get this straight, Australia has an army?
  • by Mr.Ziggy ( 536666 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {0212mrots}> on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:22PM (#15563010)
    The best look at this problem is an old documentary called Cane Toads: An Unnatural History.

    I own the DVD because it is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Truly memorable, educational, and completely bizarre. Before we had documentary parodies like Best of Show, there were real documentaries that were even better.

    Must see:
    Little girl playing with toads like Barbie dolls
    Man killing cane toads. Multiply by the thousands now + camo for army effect.

    Reviews and more info: -to-fight-toxic-toad-invasion-in-australia.htm [] []

  • Simple Solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aqua_boy17 ( 962670 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:33PM (#15563121)
    The Crocodile Hunter could just lure them to the soldiers using his infant son as bait. No, wait...

    Seriously though, I live in South Florida, US where they also pulled this trick (to save money for the rich sugar cane barons, but that's another story) and it's had the same sort of disastrous results. As soon as the toads found out that there were suburbs nearby, they quickly abandoned the cane fields and settled in the nice comfy urban neighborhoods. The toxin is extremely poisonous therefore, not only do they have no known predators, but they also kill household pets who are unlucky enough to encounter and bite them.

    There is not very much you can do to control the Bufo's except to remove sources or food and water. These things thrive on pet food and we'll always have them in my neighborhood as long as morons keep leaving their pet food outside in their driveways (which also attracts rats, possums, and other nasties). They're also said to be able to survive months underground during the dry season and then emerge in the wet which is just starting here now so needless to say, my block has been crawling with them for the last 3 weeks.

    I've also seen very little on humane ways of eradicating these pests. One site advocates putting them in a bag in your freezer until they're frozen solid but this doesn't sit well with the wife I'm afraid. I've heard of people pouring ammonia and other toxins on them (these are sluggish toads easily hand caught, not leaping frogs) but this seems cruel as well as not very envrionmentally friendly. We have a large dog who pounces on anything that moves, so needless to say controlling these things is a real concern. I personally know of several people who have lost their pets in the last year due to deadly encounters with Bufo's and that's one reason my dog never goes into the yard alone for any length of time.
  • Irony? (Score:2, Funny)

    by DanHibiki ( 961690 )
    "Evolved toads march towards Darwin", there is something very ironic about all of this.
  • Can't they build a fence or something?
  • Chazwazzer (Score:2, Funny)

    by modi123 ( 750470 )
    A "bullfrog"?!?! That's a funny name. I woulda called it a Chazwazzer!
  • by Gorimek ( 61128 )
    History shows that when met with any kind of military force, the frogs quickly surrender!

    And I do apologize...
  • Seriously. That has the potential to solve these sorts of problems: an autonomous frog-eating robot, solar-powered, that just cruises around and chews them up. If you're worried about false negatives, have it capture them, take a picture, and wi-fi it to a bunch of minimum-wage outsourcing victims who mod 'bufo' or 'not bufo' and base their wage increases on a metamoderation system. Make sure the toadba units can float. Every couple of months hire someone to go collect all the ones that haven't moved in
    • These naturally powered predators already exist. They are called "crows".

      Aussie crows are starting to learn how to flip the toads over. This is only 70 years. The ecosystem will correct this problem. It may take a bit of time but the ecosystem is very resiliant. Its been able to handle everything thrown at it for at least the last 3.8 billion years and a lot of things have happened worse than a cane toad.

      However - I will admit they are ugly. Also, they make a mess when you drive over them. The thing
  • Poisonous is a better description. The problem is that these alien toads look like tasty morsels to many Australian predators. Unfortunately for any animal that decides to makes a meal of one, it will also be its last.

    I don't think there's any easy answer to this problem. In neighboring New Zealand, they successfully exterminated alien rats on some of their Islands by airdropping poisoned bait. That's not going to work on these toads, since although they're known to even eat stuff like plants, carrion an
  • An "Old Woman" once used this form of pest control and we all know where it got her...

    There was an old woman who swallowed a cow,
    I don't know how she swallowed a cow!
    She swallowed the cow to catch the goat,
    She swallowed the goat to catch the dog,
    She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
    She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
    She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
    That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,
    She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
    I don't know why she swallowed the fly,
    Perhaps she'll

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