Cane Toads (Bufo marinus)

Cane Toad (Bufo marinus)

Cane toads were released in North Queensland in 1935 to help control beetles that were damaging sugar cane crops. But they quickly became pests, and later migrated rapidly poisoning native species.

Because cane toads aren’t native to Australia, there are no natural predators or diseases that could control them, or keep them in check. For many years, scientific researchers have explored ways to eradicate cane toads. More recently, scientists have determined that it may be more effective to increase our understanding of cane toads and how to minimise their impact on Australia’s ecosystems.

How is the Australian Government tackling this problem?

The Australian Government has allocated funding to address this challenge, through both the Australian Research Council, which has funded research into controlling the impacts of cane toads, and the Caring for Our Country initiative.

Cane toad (Bufo marinus) threat abatement plan

In 2005, The biological effects, including lethal toxic ingestion, caused by Cane Toads (Bufo marinus) was listed as a key threatening process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The Australian Government has published a threat abatement plan that sets out the research, management and other actions necessary to reduce the impact of cane toads and protect native species and ecosystems affected by cane toads.

Caring for our Country initiative

Through the Caring for our Country initiative, the Australian Government has contributed more than $2.3 million from 2008 to 2011 to developing a national cane toad threat abatement plan and better understanding and reducing the impacts of cane toads.

These funds have supported on-ground control projects, and research into and development of effective control measures. The Australian Government will continue working with regional natural resource management organisations and with state and territory governments to share information and improve the way we address the cane toad problem.

Standard operating procedure for euthanasia of cane toads

This procedure manual outlines several methods for identifying, humanely killing and disposing of cane toads. It also identifies inappropriate methods of killing toads.

The recommendations in this document are based on the latest cane toad literature and the results of a recent trial by the NSW Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services and the University of Wollongong that examined the impact of various euthanasia techniques on cane toads. The department will review these euthanasia methods as new information becomes available.

More information

Cane toad publications

Cane toad resources

Community groups helping to control cane toads

Around Australia several not-for-profit organisations have been established to help protect native species from cane toads.

These groups are involved in projects to remove cane toads, conduct research into their impacts, and help increase community awareness about cane toads and frogs. These organisations can be a source of useful information and generally welcome involvement from the local community.

The following community groups are dedicated to reducing the impact of cane toads in Australia:

Keeping track of cane toads

ToadScan is a national website developed by the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries to help communities, local governments and pest controllers gather data on cane toads in order to support control programs.

On the website you can report sightings of cane toads, the damage cane toads are causing and control activities happening in your area.

Cane toads: a history

Cane toads were released in Queensland in 1935 to control beetles that damaged sugar cane crops. The toad had reportedly solved similar beetle problems in other countries, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. But due to an absence of predators and natural diseases, the cane toad became a pest in Australia, migrating rapidly and impacting upon native species.

Cane toads now inhabit Queensland, New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Many years of scientific research have yielded no broad-scale way to eradicate toads. Much of today’s research instead focuses on how to reduce the impact of cane toads on native species and ecosystems.

Find out more about the history of cane toads in Australia:

Cane toad research: biological control and impact issues

Around Australia scientists are conducting research to better understand cane toads and the impact they have on native ecosystems.

We now know that managing the impacts of cane toads, rather than attempting to eradicate the species, may be a more effective long-term approach. For example, some scientists are examining whether it’s possible to change the way native species cope with cane toads.

Here is a list of scientific resources about on cane toads in Australia.

Identifying cane toads and tadpoles

If you intend to dispose of cane toads it’s important you can tell the difference between cane toads and local native frogs so you don’t kill frogs by accident.

While adult cane toads are usually very large - around 9 to 15 centimetres (or 3.5 to 5 inches) long, smaller toads can easily be confused with native frogs.

Cane toads have a number of distinguishing features, including:

  • dry, warty skin that may be grey, yellowish, olive-brown or reddish-brown
  • a bony ridge from their eyes to their nose
  • leathery webbing between their back toes
  • no webbing between their front toes
  • large glands on each shoulder.

The following list of resources will help you tell the difference between toads and frogs.

  • Australian Museum - Cane toad
  • Friends of Fleays - Native or Not: How to spot the different between native frogs and cane toads
  • Frogs of Australia
  • Frogs Australia Network - Native tadpole... Or cane toad?
  • Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre - Cane toad fact sheet
  • Kimberley Toad Busters - frog index
  • Kimberley Toad Busters - toad or frog?
  • New South Wales Government - Identifying a cane toad
  • Northern Queensland Dry Tropics Native Frog website
  • Northern Territory Government - How to identify a cane toad
  • Queensland Museum - Cane toad
  • ToadScan - Identifying cane toads
  • Western Australian Museum - Frogwatch