SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia’s annual cane toad cull was Monday declared a success by organisers who said that more than 14,000 of the noxious pests had perished as a result.
North Queensland’s “Toad Day Out” saw volunteers in Townsville, Charters Towers and Cairns collect the pests in plastic bags on Saturday night, and bring them unharmed to designated areas to be euthanised.
“When we were kids we always got in trouble for something, but we never ever got in trouble for belting a cane toad — we always felt we were doing society a favour,” explained local MP Shane Knuth.
“But this is a completely different way of eliminating the cane toad.”
The animals are gassed in their bags and their bodies sold for skins or to make fertiliser, or used for university research, added Knuth, one of the founders of the event which is now in its third year.
The cane toad, which carries a poisonous sac of venom on the back of its head toxic enough to kill snakes and crocodiles, is regarded as a pest in Australia because it wreaks havoc on the environment.
Knuth said by taking thousands of the prolific breeders out of the environment, Toad Day Out had prevented millions of toad births.
The Queensland politician, who lost a dog to a cane toad, said the biggest animal captured this year weighed about 500 grams (1.1 pounds) — well above the average weight of 80 grams.
Recent floods in Queensland have apparently boosted cane toad numbers, with Townsville locals saying a single street light attracted up to 50 of the nocturnal creatures.
“It was shocking, like, just driving up to the street lights, the first one and just seeing how many were crowded round there,” sixteen-year-old Townsville local Ryan Rains told ABC Radio.
The number of cane toads across Australia is estimated to have ballooned to more than 200 million since being introduced from Brazil in the 1930s to control scarab beetles infesting the country’s sugar cane.
Previous cane toad elimination techniques have included driving cars over them and smashing them with cricket bats.
“If you talk to anybody, the young, the old, they will all have something in common: nobody likes the cane toad, there is nothing great about them,” Knuth said.