Frogs and Toads!


Cane toad (Rhinella marinus) - an introduced species and environmental pest
Do you know the difference between a cane toad's eggs and frog's eggs? And why does this matter?

With the massive public awareness campaigns, I assumed most Australians knew about the cane toad and what do do about it - so why am I writing this post? 

Yesterday, I was completely surprised.  In an entire room of gardeners, at a permaculture talk I was giving, not one person knew how to distinguish between frog and toad eggs.  I think for a moment I was speechless. I know I should never assume (I can hear my father's advice clearly in this comment!). But obviously the cane toad public campaign has faded into distant memories and newcomers to these cane toad areas of Australia have not been exposed to this information.

Often in the early evening, I am out in my garden harvesting the last garnishes and leafy greens for dinner, I stumble across many big cane toads sitting up tall. Sometimes I accidentally step on them!  They are everywhere.

When I arrived in Queensland in 1993, I got to know this tough warty creature. I learnt that how they are a big problem for wildlife - outcompeting and poisoning local species, contaminating water and eating insects - including bees, reptiles and even small birds and mammals. They can also be harmful to pets and people.

Sixty years ago, the Queensland Government introduced the cane toad (Rhinella marinus) to control cane beetles, but the experiment failed and the toads have been slowing marching across Australia since. It was all a big mistake that we are still trying to sort out.

Public campaigns encouraged everybody to help slow their spread. Back in the mid 1990s, I was astonished by the neighbourhood cane toad hunts in Brisbane. I had just arrived from Melbourne to find kids racing around with sticks and bins in the early evening collecting as many toads as they could in what seemed like quite a violent frenzy. If I remember well, some communities even offered prizes for the biggest haul.

It was all a bit too gruesome for me. I did however become a vigilant pond watcher and have dutifully scooped many thousands of cane toad eggs from ponds.  It seemed by far the most humane way that didn't involve killing the toad or collecting and freezing them.

So here it is - the simple way to tell the difference between frog and cane toad eggs....

Cane toad eggs are long strings of black pearls. Frog eggs are in clusters usually looking a bit like detergent bubbles with little black spots. If you find the cane toads, scoop them out and leave them in the sun to dry out.

Cane toad eggs - longs strings of black pearls 
Image Source: www.scienceimage.csiro.au/image/1842
Spotted Marsh Frog and eggs
Image source: © Craig Cleeland bwvp.ecolinc.vic.edu.au
Strangely, cane toads are not actually a declared pest in Queensland but we do need to remember that even though we are encouraged to eradicate them, that they are animals and can suffer pain.  In fact, the Queensland Animal Care and Protection Act, 2001, makes it unlawful for us to be cruel to cane toads, and the RSPCA has developed an information sheet on how to humanely despose of adult can toads.  http://kb.rspca.org.au/What-is-the-most-humane-way-to-kill-a-cane-toad_299.html





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