Toxic Invader Alert! Cane Toad Spreads Fear of New Disease in Australia
A dead cane toad (Bufo marinus) found by the side of the road at Charlotte Pass, near Mount Kosciuszko in southern New South Wales a few days ago is prompting disease fears.
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Officer (NPWS) Dave Woods told ABC Radio Canberra said the amphibian was probably accidentally brought by a tourist.
"It [the toad] either died in transit or it's fallen out and survived for a few days," Woods said. "We strongly suspect given the [area] has high visitation, that it was a tourist that brought it in."
While there was no other evidence of cane toad frogs in the area except for the carcass, rangers said it should still be a concern because the cane toad might have carried a Chytrid fungus and might have infected local frogs.
Cane toads carry body fluids that are highly toxic if ingested by other animals and humans. They have a bony head, with a dry and skin full of warts.
According to National Geographic, cane toads were considered as pests after they were released in Australian ecology in 1935, hoping that they would eliminate the cane beetle population. However, instead of preventing the spread of the cane beetles, they began invading the area itself, eventually reaching millions.
But more than their booming population, one particular concern is that their venom have depleted the native species and poisoned animals and even humans. The venom of cane toad is a mix of toxins that primarily affects the functioning of the heart. It also limits the ability to breathe from the skin.
Because they are highly adaptable, they have managed to move from north of Queensland to other parts of Australia.
"They probably have moved about halfway through that tropical region of Western Australia," Rick Shine, a professor in biology at the University of Sydney, told BBC. "They are in very inaccessible country now in the Kimberley. It is very hard to get detailed information on exactly where the front is but it seems to be moving at 50 to 60km (31 to 37 miles) per annum."