Cane toad races
If you travel along Australia's east
coast you are bound to run into a cane toad race at least once
during your travels. This is a report on the 19 June 2004 cane
toad races at PK's Jungle Village in Cape Tribulation.
First an introduction for those of you that have never
heard of cane toads; they are a poisonous South American toad that
can grow as big as dinnerplates and breed like rabbits.
Australia nowadays has many introduced species of plants and animals,
some manage to co-exist without too much impact, some create real
environmental problems. Most animals were brought in by your everyday
people who had no idea what the consequences would be but the canetoad
would have to be the biggest blunder in Australia's history as in
this case scientists, paid by the Australian government, went overseas
to collect canetoads and returned to Australia and set about thirty
of them free in North Queensland in 1933. The idea was that they
would eat the beetles that were causing economic damage eating the
sugarcane but unfortunately the cane toads never touched the beetles
but helped themselves to everything else they could find. Wildlife
smaller than them they will kill and eat, wildlife bigger than them
will eat them and die from the poison they have in glands on their
back. The thirty toads that were introduced initially have now multiplied
into the countless millions and are spreading across Australia and
have recently arrived in Kakadu, Northern Territory where it is
expected they will devastate the place as there are vast floodplains
which are the perfect breeding ground for them. They seem to be
adapting to the Australian conditions/distances too, scientists
are studying the toxic pests' entry in to the NT, clocking them
hopping up to 2km in a single night, or more than 50km a year -
five times quicker than their predecessors travelled in the 1940s
to 1960s. Some birds have actually adapted and learned how to turn
them over and eat their insides avoiding the poison glands on the
back. Ingenious Australians have also used the toads to make wallets,
stubby coolers etc.
Western Australia is also concerned about the
cane toad making it west across the Kimberleys, they have
so far allocated $2.5 million and are currently training a
sniffer dog that should detect and hunt down any cane toad
that tries to make it across the border at Kununarra. The
dog will be trained to search buildings and vehicles and if
trials prove successful then more dogs will be trained.
Hippies desperate for a thrill but too broke to buy drugs
sometimes cut the back with poison glands off the toad, dry
it in the sun and then roll it into a joint to smoke ( don't
try this at home!!) Some dogs are reported to have turned
into druggies by becoming addicted to "cane toad sucking",
getting high on the poison. A vet in Katherine said she has
treated more than 30 dogs suffering from the deadly effects
of bufo toxin at her Katherine Vet Care surgery. In an effort
to reduce the numbers of this toad Australians sometimes also
get the golfclubs out for a round of cane toad golf. Australian
pubs in tourist areas often organize cane toad races where
punters can buy a toad or bet on them in similar fashion to
horse races. In the Northern Territory and in Cairns you can
do your bit to save the country by collecting cane toads and
being paid a beer per bag at collection depots.
They are getting more huger!
So how does a cane toad race work?
An Irish tourist is issued with Irish Rover
An Aussie sheila is issued with Little Aussie Battler
but declines to kiss him
Before the race someone is given the task to collect
a bucket of cane toads. They are then fitted with a number on their
back to tell them apart. The numbers correspond to names on the
board you see above, to make it more internationally competitive
they get names associated with countries and are then assigned to
people from those countries that are picked from the audience. One
by one they are issued their cane toad, instructed to kiss the toad,
and place it in a bucket in the centre of the dance floor.
Place the cane toad in position for the race
Then the bucket is lifted, the cane toads take off
and the crowds go ballistic with excitement. The first toad to leave
the dance floor will be the winner.
The crowd goes wild
The Italian Stallion takes the lead
the others are still thinking about it...
The Jumping Japanese in second position
Two competitors decided to save their energy for next week
The owner of Italian Stallion won himself a jug of
beer, the owner of Jumping Japanese a schooner of beer and the third
over the finish line Herman the German a pot of beer.
From time to time people get upset with this activity
as they consider it cruel to the animal. Our view is that throughout
the race the canetoads should be treated as you would any other
animal, not too rough and not causing injury. Then after the race
you should dispose of your toads in a humane manner. The suggested
method for cane toads is to place them in a plastic bag in a freezer,
where they will simply fall asleep in the cold and eventually pass
away. Cane toads are one of the biggest environmental pess ever
introduced into Australia and kill scores of native wildlife, so
with each canetoad you kill you save dozens of native animals from
being killed. So have some fun and do a bit for the environment
at the same time.
Photo courtesy of Johnos
This photo was taken at Johnos in Cairns, where prizes
for the winners included dinner for 2 @ Ricardos Restaurant, Passes
to the Cairns Rainforest Dome, Reverse Bungy Jumps @ Cairns Skypark
and Sunday Lunch BBQ vouchers courtesy of Lake Placid Bar and Bistro.
A good reason to head down there when you get to Cairns!
Bars where you can see this amazing Australian activity;
The Iron Bar in Port Douglas
Jungle Village in Cape Tribulation
Johnos in Cairns; The World famous Toad Races have
become so popular with tourists in Cairns Tropical North Queensland
that they are held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7.30pm
at Johno's Blues Bar on the corner of Abbott and Aplin Streets the
city. Entry to the club is FREE and prizes include passes to the
Cairns Rainforest Dome, trips on the Cairns Habitat Cruise, reverse
Bungy Jumps @ Cairns Skypark, diners for 2 @ Riccardos Restaurant
and passes on the Adventure Duck. Your crazy Toad Master for the
evening is the very funny Professor Sarcasm
Send us an email if
you know of any other places!
Racing report and most photos by Rob Lapaer of Rainforest
Hideaway B&B in Cape Tribulation, Rob has been a certified
toad jockey since 1986, as this certificate proves...