Many times governments take ecological decisions to combat certain problems but these actions can cause serious and persisting problems. One such mistake made by the Australian government was introduction of cane toads in Northern Queensland in 1935. The toads were not native of the country and they were brought to control the population of beetles that were damaging sugar cane crops. However, rather than doing good, the cane toads became the first invasive species to be introduced deliberately in the state and they became pests.
The French’s Cane and Greyback Cane beetles were destroying sugar cane by attacking the crops by eating the roots. To control them, cane toads were bred at the Meringa Experimental Station and more than three thousands of them were released into the sugar cane plantations of Northern Queensland. It was an experiment and the experts didn’t predict the toads would become pests rather than saviours. The toads failed to control the population of beetles because the bugs evaded cane toads by living on the tops of the sugar canes instead of the roots.
The toads rapidly became pests because Australia is not their native land which is why here they don’t have natural predictors or diseases to keep their population under control. Experts estimate that there are more than 200 million cane toads in Australia. Their population grew rapidly and exponentially since their introduction in the northern and eastern parts of Queensland and New South Wales. What’s more, these pests are found as far as the river catchments around the Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory.
As the toads became pests, the Government of Australia allocated funds to control the problem. The national strategy has been to bring in effect a Threat Abatement Plan (TAP) for the biological effects of the cane toads and lethal toxic ingestion. Here are the main goals of the TAP.
- Recognize indigenous species and ecosystems that can be harmed by the cane toads
- Lessen the effects cane toads have on indigenous species and ecosystems
- Increase awareness about cane toads and their effects
Since the introduction of the cane toads in 1935 it has been extremely difficult to curb their growth and effects on the flora and fauna of the country. The experiment is also a reminder that proper research and measures need to be done and taken before introducing any foreign species. Cane tods became an invasive species that is hard to control even in 2021.
The Bottom Line
Introduction of the cane toads was the first instance in Queensland when a foreign species was brought to save sugar cane crops from being destroyed by indigenous beetles. It was a failed experiment for which flora and fauna is still suffering. Among the many firsts of Queensland, this experiment enlightens to understand that everything must be done with research and ensure the consequences are not dire.