This week’s homeschool group was with a National Park ranger, who gave a talk about cane toads and frogs. Cane toads are a huge pest in Australia; yet another example of the idiocy of Western mono-agriculture.
Settlers decided to grow sugar cane in Australia. It’s not native here. And the crops were attacked by cane beetles. Some bright spark found this toad, and imported them here, because in lab conditions, the toad eats the beetle.
Only in real life, the beetles live at the top of the cane, and the toads on the ground, rarely meeting each other. Then along came the unpleasant side-effects of introducing a species into a new environment – the cane toads breed like rabbits (another nasty pest in Australia), and don’t have any natural predators here to keep the numbers in check.
And they’re poisonous. So local animals that eat them, like goannas and red-bellied black snacks die. The toads are also efficient competitors for food, thus reducing populations of other native Australian animals. The little blighters are spreading rapidly around Australia, at a rate of roughly 40km each year.
The kids learned about how to identify the cane toads, and not confuse them with other native frogs; Littletree found it to be fascinating – she’s always very interested in wildlife and loves documentaries.
Of course, the homeschool group ended up, as usual, with the standard tree-climbing session. Which is, of course, totally illogical. I’ve been assured many times by wyse wombyn that if I let my child wear pink dresses, she won’t be able to climb trees, or think for herself, so I find this behaviour very confusing. :P
***Updated to add***
Just a few minutes after I posted this, Purple was doing some work in the garden and called Littletree out to see something – he’d unearthed a couple of cane toads under a log. Littletree gave a short lecture about how to identify that they’re actually cane toads, and explained about how even the tadpoles are poisonous – apparently the tadpoles are the main threat with them as fish eat the tadpoles and die. Littletree then got us to catch the toads in a plastic bag and we put them in the freezer, which is, apparently, the humane way to kill them. She was so excited about it :)