It has been well publicized around the world that a particularly large cane toad was found in Darwin last week. In other words a 'bloody big toad'. It was 20.5 centimetres and weighed almost a kilogram.
If you grew up in Australia in the late 1980s, chances are you watched the documentary 'Cane Toads' at school. The scene from the film most of us remember most clearly is the one with the combi-van swerving all over the road to squash the pesky toads (they make a 'pop' sound when they are squashed).
We also learnt that cane toads are not native to Australia and are originally from Central and South America. In 1935, in an attempt to control the native sugar cane beetle, 102 cane toads were introduced to Queensland. To call this a bad idea is understatement, the toads now number over 20 million and have migrated to parts of New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
The full extent of their long-term, negative environmental impact is yet to be determined. However, the toads can already be directly attributed as the cause for a reduction in some native species populations, and a distinct disruption to the natural food chain. Cane toads are prolific breeders, opportunistic feeders that can digest living of dead matter, and their skin excretes a poisoness toxin that will kill most animals when digested (their tadpoles are also toxic).
The environmental disaster of this introduced animal (along with rabbits) on Australia's fragile natural environment is an influencing factor as to why Australia now has such strict quarantine laws for importing flora or fauna.
Here is an animated short about cane toads, that I think is hilarious, for the aussie slang as much as anything else, although the toad-man-boobs are a little disturbing.