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Yet another tale of liquidised amphibians.

The Cane Toad, otherwise known as Bufo marinus, was originally a native of South America, but over the years it has been exported to various other locations across the world, generally on the misguided belief that it would act as a biological control agent.1 Specifically in 1935 the Australian sugar cane industry decided it would be a good idea to introduce the cane toad in order to control two specific pests, the grey backed cane beetle and the frenchie beetle. However the cane toad proved utterly ineffective in its appointed role of controlling these pest and the sugar cane industry rapidly lost interest, particularly when an effective insecticidal spray became available. Left to its own devices the cane toad proliferated; helped by the fact that it is highly toxic2 and therefore unpalatable to most predators, the population boomed and eventually reached epidemic proportions.

The cane toad has thus developed into a major public nuisance and is regarded as an ecological disaster in progress. Its toxic qualities pose a threat to the well being of less intellectually developed species such as dogs and small children and so the Australian government has been spending millions of dollars on various efforts to control the cane toad population, which sometimes reach plague proportions in parts of the North East of the country. An organisation named FrogWatch offers advice on how to toad proof your garden, offers toad traps for sale and even runs its own 'detention centres' for cane toads. Of course the question arises, no matter how succesful you are at eradicating these unwanted amphibians is what to do with thousands upon thousands of cane toads that are regarded as surplus to requirements.

Moeco, a Darwin based fertiliser company, now believes that it has come up with the perfect solution. It places the (presumably) dead cane toads into a vat, adds its own dissolving liquid, and waits thirty-six hours until the toads have been thoroughly liquified. The resulting 'toad juice' will then be made available as a liquid fertiliser and sold to gardeners up and down the land. In February 2006 the company produced its first batch of 'toad juice', produced from some 440 pounds (200 kilograms) of ex cane toads and has reported great interest in its product from all across Australia, and now believes that it needs five tonnes of the raw material in order to satisfy demand.

FrogWatch has announced that "We need all the live toads we can get", and requests that people should take them to its existing Freds Pass centre where they will be "gassed, frozen and delivered to the factory for processing." The organisation is now planning to install collection bins throughout the town of Darwin where people may deposit their unwanted toads (live or dead) for onward transmission and processing at Moeco's production facilities.

The Australian RSPCA has advised that the most humane way of killing a cane toad is to smear it with haemorrhoid cream (which anaesthetises the toad) and then pop it into the freezer (which kills it). Others however regard this is far too complicated and fiddly a method and recommend simply hitting it with a cricket bat.

According to FrogWatch, "Toad juice is great on banana and pawpaw plants, and it'll be in the shops soon. Remember, its organic too."


Toad juiceĀ® is also the name of a brand of equine antiseptic spray sold in the state of Florida. Sadly this only a solution of mint, thyme and eucalyptus and contains no toad, cane or otherwise.


NOTES

1 The Cane Toad has also made its home in Florida and Hawaii where it was introduced for much the same reasons. United States Department of Agriculture officially classifies Bufo marinus as an invasive species.
2 Cane toad venom also has hallucinogenic properties, is a primary ingredient in the so-called zombie powder from Haiti which induces a death like state in its victims, and has also given rise to the practice of toad licking.


SOURCES

Inspired by the report from The Age reproduced in Private Eye No 1156. Confirmation obtained from;

  • Paul Jackson, Toad Juice hits national fans, 12 Feb 06
    http://www.ntnews.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,7034,18121133%255E13569,00.html
  • Toad juice good for roses not noses, 14 March 2006
    http://www.abc.net.au/darwin/stories/s1591341.htm
  • Nick Squires, Loathed toads turned into liquid fertiliser, 18/04/2006
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/04/18/wtoad18.xml
Other Cane Toad information found at;
  • http://www.jcu.edu.au/school/phtm/PHTM/staff/rsbufo.htm
  • http://www.feral.org.au/content/species/cane_toad.cfm
  • http://www.frogwatch.org.au/canetoads/default.cfm
  • http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/animals/canetoad.shtml
For the equine toad juice see http://www.toadjuice.net/

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