Australia's plague ready to leap again

Cane toads threaten Kakadu national park in Australia

Source: David Fickling
Guardian November 22 2002 p22

Cane toads are threatening to take over Kakadu national park in Australia. They came to Australia from Venezuela during the 1930s, and prey on local wildlife. They have poisonous skin, so are not eaten by predators. Their expansion in Australia has been rapid, especially in the north, where their territory covers an estimated 400,000 sq miles. They are advancing towards the south and west by an estimated 60 miles a year, colonising river valleys. They were first introduced to Australia in an attempt to protect sugar cane crops from pests, but the toads appear to eat anything but the grubs of the beetles that attack sugar cane. Kakadu is a large national park, almost half as big as Holland. Wildlife at risk include goanna sand monitors, turtles, snakes, and quolls. Quolls are marsupials that look a little like foxes. Cane toads can also kill crocodiles which try making a meal of a toad. Conservationists fear that there may be no way to prevent the toads from predominating in the national park.