- Environmental Recording
- Environmental Recording
- Environmental Recording
Ferry boat ambi
Australia; Conrad Hoskin
Toads, frogs, birds ambi
Australia; Conrad Hoskin
Toads, frogs, birds ambi
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
12 Mar 2000
- -27.46778 153.02778
- 3:58 - 23:21
- Brisbane; University of Queensland
- -27.49778 153.01278
- 23:53 - 1:30:59
- Sennheiser MKH 30
- Sennheiser MKH 40
Stereo=1; Decoded MS stereo
NPRINGS RADIO EXPEDITIONS
Log of DAT #: B-3
Engineer: Manoli Wetherell
Date: March 2000
ng = not good ok= okay g = good vg = very good
AC: ALEX CHADWICK MW: MANOLI WETHERELL CJ: CAROLYN JENSEN CH: CONRAD HOSKIN
:04 MW: This is the Sunday evening tape, March 12. Going off to the cane toad guy, waiting for the boat: this is M/S Sennheisers all around, 30/40.
:43-4:00 AMB. " waiting for the ferry
4:00 FX: motor or clanking
4:46 FX: equipment moving around, groaning
5:11 boat skipper: this ferry is going upstream, all stops to the university.
5:19 AC: is this the ferry to university? Yessir. Voice over P A: passengers should be ...exits are located on both sides, front and rear of the vessel. Lifejackets can be found on the left side of the passenger cabin under the wheelhouse and behind the hatch at the front entrance door to the cabin. (?) are equipped with life rails, mounted on the front and rear of the vessel. Passengers are requested to remain clear of the boarding gates until the vessel is safely berthed and the gangplank is in position. Children must remain under parental control in all areas at all times, and particularly outside the cabin areas. Please be aware that (?) may accelerate or slow down (inaudible) destabilize standing passengers. Also emergency braking can cause the ferry to stop suddenly under extreme conditions. Please remain secure in your travelling position. We request that passengers do not disturb the master or deckhands while the vessel is in motion or being docked at (?) Once again, thank you for travelling with Brisbane transport city cab. Enjoy your trip.
6:32- 10:52 AMB on board the ferry, some conversation, children
10:52 AC: can we talk to you for a second? Sure
AC: We're from national public radio in the united states doing some stories on aust. could I get your name please?
Bob Hollywood (BH)
AC: and what do you do here on the boat
BH: at the moment I'm deckhand.
AC: you drive it and do everything?
BH: yeah. I drive, we share it if we've been working here for quite some time. We split the duties, esp at night, its quite tiring, concentrating at speed n the dark. AC: the thing that's quite remarkable, it's so silent and so powerful and so fast, what kind of propulsion is it?
BH: just propellers and rudders. Its designed as a high speed, low wash ferry because environmentally sensitive in terms of what it does to the river banks. It achieves that low wash capability because the amount of wash that it puts off is a function of the ratio between waterline length and displacement. And we are a displacement boat, we 're not a planing hull, we don't get up on the surface and skim like a speed boat. We're more like a rowing scull , the long narrow, in the water, we don't waste any energy getting up and skimming, we just go. Very big propellers, 4 bladed propellers, and little tiny rudders because we travel fast, so as we slow down we lose rudder authority, we go back to working on the engine. Excuse me.
12:22 VOICE OVER PA: the next stop is Goad park from the front of the boat, Goad park .
12:39 FX: baby cries
12:54 FX: gangplank sounds
13:45 FX: creaking gangplank
14:08 FX: boat gets underway
14:08--18:27 boat amb, people murmuring in bkgnd
16:15 FX: hatch sliding
16:25 motor revs up, microphone distortion
18:10 motor revs down
18:27 VOICE OVER PA: the next stop is the university of , be unloading from the front of the boat here, you cue from the front, the ferry turns around here and will proceed back downstream to bretts wharf. You cue front of the boat. Thank you .
18:52 FX: hatch sliding
19:08 FX: creaking of gangplank
19: 19 VOICE: see ya later
19:20 AMB: people disembarking, walking, frogs or something faintly in bkgnd
20:00 FX: bicycle or something wheels by
21:20 FX: hatch or door slams shut in bkgnd
21:56-23:07 FX: motor revs, boat pulls away, frog sound louder a little
23: 19 MW end of the boat ride
23:52 MW: slate it
CJ: All right, its evening, march 12, Sunday, and we're going cane toad hunting at the university of ., its about 7:20 and we're with a young scientist named comad hoskins. he's ahead of us, its absolutely dark, and we 're crossing the lawn now looking for cane toads .
24:18 AMB: walking, frogs or insects in the bkgnd
24:30 AC: first thing he does is pee.
CH: yeah, always. And that's their call, going ddddddddddd in the background
24:34 FX: toad calling
AC: there's another one going
CH: yeah. This is a sort of average size one, you can see it's a male cuz its got those nuptial pads.
AC: those little kind of thumb like things?
CH: yeah, see there, its almost like a little rubber pad on his thumb? It's for clasping the female and hanging on. Yeah they 're toxic all thru the skin, but then especially ...
AC: you're handling it with bare hands though.
CH: yeah that's fine. People lick these.
AC: they do?
CH: its sort of got a hallucinogenic effect.
AC: have you ever licked one?
CH: naw. I'm not sure how many licks you can get away with. And then they've got these perotid glands, and they're just full of toxin.
AC: this is a kind of little lump, right behind the head, right above the front arm.
CH: if you really annoy them, you can get a little white milky toxin to come out of those little pores. And that's not such a hassle, but if you really squeeze it it can shoot up to a meter and get into your eyes and...usually what happens is a dog comes along and bites it and forces a whole lot of that toxin out?
CH: but if you really annoy him, he might...often if you really piss them
AC: you don't have to try any harder to get em to squirt the poison. We'll
CH: he wont squirt it, he' ll just get it milky on his (?). yeah ... pretty used to humans around here. This guy's probably been kicked many times in his life. So that's, yeah ... the biggest ones I've seen have been up to about 24cm.
AC: that's about a foot.
AC: you've seen them that big, a foot long?
CH: probably not quite, but maybe 20-22 cm and really heavy too.
AC: how heavy?
CH: I don't know, I'm not sure.
AC: but heavy.
CH: seriously heavy, yeah. And there's records of them eating mice and all sorts of things. Basically they'll eat anything that comes past and they can catch and that's big enough to get in their mouth. We'll scoot around and see if we can catch one of these. AC: all right. Hold on just a second we gotta do this before we go any further. Just tell me who you are and how to identify you.
27: 19 CH: I'm Conrad Hoskin, and I'm from zoology at the university of . And I'm currently doing a PhD in speciation in west african (?) fauna, frogs, snakes, lizards, and I'm about a year into that. But on top of that I do general survey work around and consultancy stuff and all the rest of it.
AC: so are you a cane toad expert?
CH: uh, I'm not sure how you'd qualify to be an expert. But I now a fair amount about them just because I've led quite a few field trips and just being out in the field so much in southeast where cane toads are so common. You just pick up knowledge all the time, you just constantly encounter them doing strange things and yeah. I don't know whether I'm an expert.
AC: I'd say you're an expert.
AC: we're gonna call you an expert anyway. You're expert enough for us.
CH: if you wanta record that call I'd do it now before we go around.
AC: yeah. OK. So, we3 should turn out the lights?
CH: yeah, and if we get just over to the end and get past this wall of bamboo and you might be able to hear them calling better. Cuz I think there are several, there's one, a couple here and maybe a few further around.
MW: so we should turn the lights off?
CH: once we're over there I think we're fine. But if you're near one and you want to get a close call you better turn the light off. What you can hear. You've got the toads going (MAKES THE SOUND) and you've got the frogs doing that (MAKES THE SOUND) ,which sounds like a -hear that?-sounds like a cork coming out of water, like ...hear that, it's a really common, and then all those ducks and moorehens doing the squeaking. Here we' ll go around.
29:15-29:49 AMB walking around, critter sound, lots of it
29:50-35:21 AMB no walking, critter sounds, occasional faint car noise in bkgrnd
31:12 FX loud bird sound close by
35:20 AC: conrad, can you find them down there? CH: urn ... what's interesting is, see if you look up towards the light there? AC : yeah CH: you can see all those little ripples ... AC: we 're looking ... CH: along the surface of the water
AC: the pond here, just along the surface of the pond and its maybe 50 yds across the water to the other shore, and there's a lamp on a post there so you see the light reflected across the water and all these kind of little ripples on the surface.
CH: yeah. They're mostly tadpoles, little cane toad tadpoles coming up for air. Like most amphibians they start off life being mainly ... using gills, taking oxygen in thru their skin, and as they develop, their lungs develop and they start to come up and gulp air So you can see just how many there are, sometimes there' s thousands in here. I can t see right here now, but you might be able to see them round there. They move around in shoals, so you'll just see this swarm of black tadpoles come swimming by. And they just work certain areas.
36:33 AC: and they're all cane toads. There must be hundreds of them coming to the surface just in this little space here.
CH: yeah. Almost all of these are cane toads. You can hear that other little frog, that little (MAKES THE SOUND) one is eastern sedge frog. Oh there's one of those huge bats. That's one of the aust native frogs, the small green tree frog. And that's the only other one that breeds in here. Cuz if you look in you can see there's just heaps of fish, lots of introduced mosquito fish , and very few of the aust frogs can compete with those ... can survive amongst those fish cuz fish just love eating tadpoles and frogs eggs. So to survive amongst fish you have to have a highly toxic egg and larval stage like a tadpole, so cane toads and this other one with toxic tadpoles are the only ones that can survive in here. And they do very well cuz there's so much algae for them to eat and so, and these toads are just amazing breeders. The female can carry up to 25 thousand eggs in one go and just dump them. But its kind of handy cuz the toad lays its eggs in long strings whereas all the native aust frogs lay them in some sort of clump, so sometimes when you walk thru you can see these incredible strings of eggs all thru the shallows. And ifyoure so inclined you can just rip them out and throw them on the bank. Its probably the best way of controlling them, if you're really diligent and you come down every single morning and try to pull out these strings of tadpoles.
38:03 AC: every morning would you find a string?
CH: thru summer when they're really going you could, yeah. Right now you wouldn't cuz there's only a couple of males calling and I'd say they would have bred a few weeks ago and throughout the beginning of summer when it was a bit hotter and wetter. But right now I can't see. We should try. But seriously sometimes you'll come down here and there'll just be hundreds of tadpoles in front of you in these swarms. And then...there's a duck...the most amazing thing is when they all metamorphose, they come out in waves so if she goes down and dumps 25 thousand eggs in one go, they'll all come out within a month. So within a few days most of those tadpoles will come out.
AC: 25 thousand
CH: uhh, tiny little toads, yeah. Most of them will survive in a place like this. There's really not much preying on them when they're a tadpole, there's just a few fish. And when all those guys come out you can walk down here and there's just like a swarm of little tiny toads marching out across the grass trying to find a moist place to hide. And I think that's where most of them probably get knocked off. A lot of the birds seem to be able to pick them up at that stage without being poisoned too much. And a few of the snakes like the freshwater snake can get into them, but then once they start developing them become immune to everything in aust. so yeah. ' So .do you want to try to find some more tadpoles or some more toads? . . ,
AC: sure, yeah. And then we'll just sit down and talk to you for a few minutes about them.
CH: yeah. See if we can find a female. The females are much bigger than the males. But they're really nervous. Usually toads are really arrogant and they'll just sit there and you can basically walk up and you know-gee whiz-put your foot on them. They're perfect for kids in the backyard with the golf club.
AC: the cane toads are?
CH: ah yeah. Cuz they just sit there. But in a place like this where people harass them and they get collected here and there and frozen, they get pretty nervous. Like that one before? See he was trying to escape. That's really rare. Like out where I live where it's a bit more bush land they'd never even bother moving.
40:39 CH: see here. They're all jumping in the water.
40:40 FX: toads jumping in the water
CH; one just jumped in here. Here it is.
AC: so that's one?
AC: you think that's a female? It looks bigger than the last one .
CH: yeah. Yeah that's a female, you see she's got none of that spongy ... that' s a black sponge on the front of the nuptial pads. She hasn't got that. And often you'll find
that the females are quite granular on the back, see how she's quite warty? Whereas the e males are often smoother. But she's still small. They get twice that big. And she's not carrying eggs either. If she was carrying eggs she'd be really fat thru here.
42:17 CH: are you going up north? AC: yeah, we ... first we 're going to Adelaide, and then we 're going up to the
middle, then we're going up to the goff peninsula and then we're going to kakadu. CH: you going thru alice springs , up thru the middle that way? AC: well we' re gonna take a train t alice springs and then fly from there. CH: yep. Are yu going to Cairns? AC: no we're not. I'm sorry to say. CH: that's typical toad behavior, you can just tap em on the head. There's another one there. See this is the ... they're just so nervous through here. This is perfect they ... for instance, if you go, esp up north around Cairns and some of those tropical cities, and they're a lot like this, there'd be maybe 40 toads or. .. just walking around suburban gardens in a place like Cairns, just incredible. And you'll see them coming up, and you'll put the food out for the dog at night and they come up and eat the dog biscuits. They're really unusual for amphibians because most frogs need prey to actually move in front of them, like a beetle to move before they' ll strike, whereas toads they'll eat things that don't even move, like dog biscuits and all sorts of strange ... they' re really bizarre. Maybe that's just in aust , they'll do anything here. That was a chunky one back there, I'll just grab it.
44:06 FX: footsteps crunching
CH: nothing special. (off mic) the male. AC: but this is , well we just saw 3 or 4 hop away, and it seems to me like we 're finding a fair number of these things.
CH: yeah, but really this is nothing special. If they were at this density it'd be great. Its just, yeah, when you get to some areas they're so thick on the ground its just tragic. You roll up to the spot.. .you know how we just walked around that 50 yds or whatever of lake edge, they'd just be jumping in one after each other. And when the males really get going, like a couple of years ago here before they were really controlling them, when you came down here on a good summers night, you'd just see a row of males round the lake edge just sitting there calling. So I think they've had quite a good impact here. They have these regular toad busting events. They get students to come down and just grab them and throw them in bags and freeze them. And ever since that ... they're still here but not particularly abundant. A pond like this would be thick with them if it wasn't for humans picking them up. See there's more here, there's another one, could be the same one. And during the day these guys would be under bits of wood and maybe tucked under. .. nothing here ... . you can find them in good numbers during the day if you find a big plank of wood or a fallen branch and just pull it over, they 're all hiding under there. Bits of tin around houses ... and these guys look e really healthy. You can tell when they're a bit diseased, they get really skinny and emaciated. But I haven't seen that too much around here ... I'm being nailed by these mosquitoes ... we'll just do one more lap around here and see if there's ... there's a hot spot for them .. .
46:56 CH: these fruit bats are really just (7). if you go up the river a bit there's a colony of maybe 10 thousand. Its on a little island in the river and they just erupt out at night. ... there should be heaps under here ... they shun this lake for some reason.
AC: well you oughta find out whats in this lake that they don't like. CH: yeah. Its pretty close to that chemical sciences building.
47:36 CH: the ducks in this one die from botulism every so often too. I don't think it's the healthiest lake.
47:47 FX: splash
47:58 CH: there's one right there .... see look ... you'd usually be able to walk up and just put your foot on that, but this ones really nervy, it'll just... this one's ... see that's a sickly looking toad ... really skinny .. .its not skinny now but when I picked it up it was and its , .. . rather than just hopping away its doing this whole , it's inflating itself and really not looking so good. And people regularly talk about these waves of disease that are apparently coming thru and knocking off all the toads in their area, but I'm sure there's local eruptions of disease, but nothing major has happened to control the toads. And you can see they' re quite dry too. Nice dry skin. The skins quite nice when its made into purses and things. See its got some little lesions and .. .in north there are some people that are harvesting toads for their soft leather, but it never really took off. Yu see it at the airport for tourists and things where there's toad head key rings and toad purses and that sort of thing. And really you can handle them like this ... the only danger is like ¬and this has happened to me before when I've been handling toads, and then I've gone home, and you know when you step in the shower and first thing you usually do is put your hands through your hair like that when you step under, its just run straight into my eyes and its really sore, and it feels like its burning in my eyes, stings, but now if I just go and wash my hands now I'm not gonna be sick at all.
49:53 AC: but that must be very diluted. CH: it is, it's really dilute. AC: so the poison in these things must be quite powerful. CH: it is, it has a major effect on breathing. Ifyou see a dog or something, or a cat, that's mouthed a toad, it'll have trouble breathing or it'll be foaming at the mouth. But things that can eat toads, they can't actually eat an entire toad, they've just learned to flip toads on their back and eat everything out from underneath. Really as long as they can avoid those two perotid glands they'll be fine. Like you see crows? I've watched them on the road after a big storm the night before, there'll just be toad carnage all over the roads. And the crows will fly down and flip the toads over one by one and eat out the guts, and just leave the back and the glands...
AC: the crows will ... they come down on the road and they find a toad and they
CH: yeah, they eat out the undersides. Eat out the undersides, and its tough for them to pull away at the legs, but they eat most of the soft underside, just avoiding those glands and the sort of little glands all over the back. And you'll see water rats do it, and ... there's a few things learning to eat them. But nothing's really cottoned (?) on. Things like snakes, they have no choice. They can't tear chew, they can't tear off pieces, if they want to eat t toad they have to eat the entire toad. And there's one snake, kielback, the aust. freshwater snake which seems to be able to handle esp juvenile toads, but I think it can just handle them .. .it doesn't seem to be just eating toads all day, otherwise you'd be seeing thousands of kielbacks with all this food around. Yeah it's definitely able to handle them, people have documented it. And some of the freshwater (?) like the ones in these dams, can eat toads. Yeah, I don't think they' re doing anything to control them at the moment. So yeah, that' s about it. It's a bit disappointing actually. For you guys. AC: oh, it's quite adequate. This is a good number of toads for us. CH: it's nothing ... it's not very representative. Of how it is. No, it's good that they're not very common here anymore. AC: is there a place where we could go sit down and talk? CH: yeah, sure. AC: I'd like to get away from that power plant noise there. CH: yep, maybe back on this ... over here . AC: back over, maybe ... CH: with the toads¿in the background.
52:33-52:55 AMB -walking
CH: actually I really don't mind them much. AC: you don't mind them? CH: I have a lot of respect for them. When I was younger I used to beat them up a bit ... oh, he just got chased off by another one ... hey that was a big one ... you see that one? That was an impressive one.
53:12 FX: metal clanking
CH: he' s just biffing up the other guy. AMB: more walking.
53:37 CH: yeah, when I was younger I used to ... um ... really get into toad busting and knocking them over the fence with a golf club and all the rest of it. But, I've just come to respect them. You see them doing the most amazing things. Breeding almost anywhere, even into acidic waters on the coast, and surviving in back yards in spite of all the kids running around beating them up...coming out on the roads at night, people running them down, all the rest of it. But really I don't think, it doesn't have much effect. Unless ... at a place like this, where people come down regularly and keep working the same ponds, and reducing their numbers. Otherwise, yeah, like when I see them on the roads now I generally steer around them. You know, I work on amphibians, and I think they're doing very well for themselves. I'll just wait for the day when they can find a proper solution that'll knock em out.
AC: let's go sit back over here, cuz I still hear that power thing going in the background.
54:45-57:53 AMB: walking, toads, bugs, insects
54:57 CH: you'll notice we haven't seen any native frogs yet. We haven't seen any native frogs just yet.
55:52 FX: ducks jumping in water, squawking
55:25 FX: squawking
57:57 AC: they are my favorite aust animal and I've never seen one. CH: platypus? AC: yeah CH: they're incredible. First thing anyone says when they see a platypus is , gee I didn't know they were that small. Cuz they're small. They're only like this. I think everyone thinks they're like a beaver or something. AC: yeah. AC: so, just tell me , uh, well how did the cane toads get here? CH: well in the 1930s there was a big problem in the sugar cane with the
sugar cane grubs, and the beetles. So it was the grub that was causing the trouble by damaging the sugar cane, but the beetle was at a stage where they thought they couuld control this pest. And elsewhere like in Hawaii and PR they claimed they'd had some sort of success by using south american cane toads to control these grubs that were devastating the sugar cane. And really there wasn't that much evidence for it but it was such a serious problem at the time that they just thought ok we'll give it a go, and there were all these false or exaggerated claims about just how good a cane toad was, and how big and abundant they get, and how many thousands of grubs they could eat in a particular night, all for free, you know, you just throw your cane toads down and she's right.
And so the authorities thought ok lets get some of these toads. And a few people at the time said, are you sure these things actually eat the grub? And are you sure they're not going to cause general trouble and get out of control? But really it was never properly addressed. You could never do the same thing now without lengthy trials on how theyd interact with the wildlife and all the rest of it.
So anyway, a small number of these toads came to aust. via hawaii and fiji and they kept taking a small pop from each place. Eventually they got to aust , were released just up near Cairns, and spread rapidly down the east coast. And basically they've spread all the way down south of Brisbane a little way, and they seem to have slowed down a little on their southern spread cuz its getting a little bit cool down there. And it doesn't look like they'll be making sydney in a long time, if
vw ever. Whereas across the north of Australia, its perfect tropical, hot wet climate for them. So they re spreading quickly and soon they'll be in kakadu national park, which is a major wetland, major tourist attraction. So people are finally getting serious about trying to deal with the toad problem.
1:00:46 AC: what makes you think that they'll actually get to kakadu?
CH: they definitely will. They're advancing at about 40km a year, the toad wave's going. And they went thru a tough strip, which is the gulf of carpentieri which is quite dry, and now they've made it up into those wetlands. And its just absolutely perfect habitat for them. They've done bioc1imatic modeling and all the rest of it. And they're range could potentially be all the way across into western aust. so kakadu by no means the end of their trip. They'll just keep going into northern and western aust as well.
1:01 :28 AC: as a biologist, whats gonna happen when they get to kakadu?
CH: Ah, the big problem with toads is that there really hasn't been any good scientific studies looking at before and after effects, looking at their impact on the wildlife, so everything is really anecdotal. Which is a bit of a hassle scientifically because you can t say they'll do this, they'll do that. But there's a lot of anecdotal evidence and just from everyones personal observations, that shows that they have a serious impact on a lot of the frog predators. Athere's lots of predators in aust, esp snakes and native cats, the quaIls and things like that, that eat the frogs, aust got lots of frogs, lots of prey, so a lot of things have sort of specialized into that frog predator role . So now that there's this new, highly toxic frog on the scene they'll just get into it. And it really is incredibly toxic. It can kill dogs, cats, so it has no trouble killing wildlife that eat it. And the big problem is a lot of the wildlife doesn't have the capacity to learn about the toads, and so many come thru in a wave, and they just don t get the chance to learn about them before its too late. And there's a lot of things that are missing now in eastern , a lot of these frog predators are gone. And its not entirely due to the toads. There's been a lot of habitat change, there's introduced cats, there's all sorts of problems, but the toads, they seem to be a major factor in this decline.
1:03:02 AC: is kakadu gonna change because of the toad?
CH: Um .. .initially it'll certainly change. I'm sure when these toads come in there'll be a serious impact on the general wildlife of kakaduo And then ultimately things l learn. Like goanas are still very common around Brisbane, frog (?) a large night (?) like an owl, which eats frogs, they survive in huge numbers. They're a common bird despite the fact that this toads hopping around underneath them. I think they largely avoid toads and maybe they can tolerate toads to a certain degree. So wildlife will either, will change to deal with the toads, like kielbacks can start to deal with immature toads, and crows can learn to turn toads over and eat the undersides and that sort of thing. So some wildlife will bounce back. But I'm sure a lot of things will be seriously hit and may not recover at all. But really its largely speculation because we don't have the scientific data to say this is the impact toads will have. Which has been the big problem when you've been trying to raise awareness on the issue of the cane toads and how...a lot of people like myself believe that cane toads are a serious issue that's largely being overlooked. Because every time it comes up there's not the evidence there to show just how serious, to back what you're saying. But it's a highly toxic amphibian. Its gonna cause trouble when it gets there.
1:04:44 AC: the way you describe it, to say that there's a wave oftoads coming across the country ...
CH: yeah well, I was up there recently about 8 months ago, just coming out of the last wet season. We'd been to kakadu, I was just on a holiday, driving around kakadu having a look. And heaps of wildlife, we didn't see any toads. The toads havent reached kakadu, they're a few hundred km southeast. Then we went down thru catherine gorge which is another big tourist area, no toads. Then we went further southeast, we were just driving along the road one night looking for the toad front, and we saw one toad just sitting in the middle of the road. We went maybe another k, and just came to this pond and there were just hundreds of toads. And then toads all over the road. So they're really advancing you know, as a classic wave: you don't see any toads and then there's just huge numbers coming forward. So each wet season-its very strong wet-dry up there--so each wet season they breed up and they move forward and in the dry they sort of hold their ground, and then move again next wet. And people have been monitoring1his progress and they're really advancing quickly.
1:05:55 AC: how long before they hit kakadu?
CH: its hard to know. People say a few years. Five years maybe, but there's so many roads they've now reached, like major highways, that you can easily imagine them sort of hitching a ride ... they're very good a getting in amongst building material, and people shifting houses with pot plants and that sort of thing, so it could be a lot quicker than their rate of spread would predict.
AC; next year? The year after?
CH: naw. I'd be surprised if they got there that soon. But a few years, possibly, yeah. But in the past, 20 yrs ago, 10 yrs ago, toads have made it into darwin in pot plants and people moving house and that sort of thing,. But every time they get there it' s a serious issue and you know there's big rewards to bring back these toads. But yeah, I think they're about to get the real thing soon.
You talk to some people, they're not too concerned, or they are concerned but they just see it as a pointless battle-there's nothing you can do about the toads, you just have to learn to accept them. And people say yeah but look around Brisbane there's still a lot of wildlife, and its true there is, but there's a lot of a few things. And if you get into a toad-free area , there seems to be a high diversity of snakes. And you see around Brisbane, for instance, in southeast , you've got a lot of these snakes which are susceptible to toads, like redbelly black snakes and other frog predators. And at higher altitudes, where the toads arent, its indicative that maybe the toads are causing a problem, but once
again there's a lot of other factors too. There's been a lot of clearing in the lowlands and that sort of thing. So you cant just say it's the toads that are doing it, but I'm sure the toads are a major factor.
1:07:53 AC: what should people do about the toads? CH: individually, like householders, you're saying? AC: yeah.
CH: if you have a ... what 1 always say to people is, if they have a pond in the back yard--and ponds are great, the best little thing for kids to play with, you can rear frogs, Brisbane had a super high diversity if frogs, and an abundance of frogs, and its great that people are putting in ponds, its become a bit of a trend, frogs are very popular-just make sure that you don't end up having this sort of perfect toad breeding playground in your back yard. And its very easy to do. If you've got a small pond in your back yard, its very easy to deal with toads. They're very vocal, you can hear the males no worries, you can just go in and kill them. Even killing them's not a nasty business, you can freeze them quite humanely in your freezer in a bag. Or just walk around your backyard at night, find the toads sitting around, and in the mornings, when you know there's been toads calling thru the night and you don't want to up and try and find them or they jump in and get away, you can just go around in the morning and look for those strings of eggs, they're very obvious. They can be up to 20 meters long, these wrapped around strings of toad eggs.
1:09:10 AC: 20 meters of toad eggs?
CH: yeah yeah, the females are incredible. They're so 'fecund. In one batch they can lay up to 25 thousand eggs. I think its generally like 8 to 25 thousand eggs, so when they breed they just pump out huge numbers;, I've got ponds in my back yard and I don't have any problems with toads, I just rid of the calling males .. .if I find the strings of toad eggs I just throw them up on the bank, and just let them dry out in the sun. And whenever I see a toad I just dispatch it.
1 :09:45 AC: but you've seen several tonight and you haven't done anything ...
CH: that' s because ... I see them all the time when I'm in the field, and I don't kill them. And 1 drive home at night I see them on the road and 1 don't kill them. I just .. .I don't like killing them for starters. And 1 don't think it has a huge impact unless you're in that area every night dealing with them or you 've got everyone in the area on side, because if 1 just randomly kill a toad when 1 see one in the bush, it makes me feel bad, and really it doesn't do anything. There's 10 thousand toads just over the hill, and one of thems gonna step into that one's place. But for instance at home I've got all the streets around where 1 am-its acreage, so lots of people have ponds and people are out there at night .... a lot of people are interested in frogs, and whenever anyone sees a toad they get rid of it. Whenever they see toad spawn they get rid of it, and it really has had an impact in the last five years. Five years ago we had lots of toads, now its quite hard to see a toad in the streets around home.
1: 1 0:48 AC : 1 kind of wonder about-and you mentioned this when we talked on the phone the other day-there must be some consideration in the community about how to deal with these toads, because you want to get rid of the toads, you'd like to kill them, but you don't want to teach children to go out and kill amphibians, and yet the way to deal with this problem is to kill all these little animals .. . CH: that's true, I totally agree with that. You don't want to get all these sadistic little kids lofting cane toads over the fence and sticking knives thru them....kids do the most atrocious things to them. Backyard cricket with a cane toad is a common sport, and all the rest of it. And maybe it helps to have so many little kids running around knocking off toads, but...and it is lucky that the cane toad is the only toad in aust, its so distinctive from all the other amphibians that its very hard to confuse it with anything else, so you don't have people accidentally killing frogs. But yeah, that sort of killer attitude in little kids is pretty bad.
1:12:00 AC: when you were a kid, did you and your friends ...
CH: I used to ... .i never liked to kill things when I was a little kid, and cane toads are quite big and they're hard to kill if you want to batter them or anything, so ... like batten them .. .1 used to hate it, it made me feel sick. But then I used to freeze them, that's very easy, you just throw them in a bag and put em in the freezer. But all my friends, they were running around hitting them over the head whenever they saw them. Its almost like .. .it's ok to be cruel to toads, its socially acceptable. Whereas if you even touch a frog it's a bit, oh be careful with that frog. You know, you've just battered a toad, which is really so similar. I was impressed in europe, cuz people are really careful about toads, , they put up signs for toad crossing areas and all the rest 'of it :And its just laughable when you come'from aust when people are going out of their way to veer down the road to hit , every toad, But I do think for instance here at the uni and at Brisbane forest park where you get these community groups going back again and again throughout the summer, maybe 5 times, 10 times through summer, and catching every toad they see, I think it can have a good effect for a local area. But its by no means solving aust toad problem
1: 13:48 AC: did someone come up with the idea of freezing the toads, or how did that come about?
CH: im not sure.
AC: is that generally done everywhere?
CH: its generally accepted as a humane to kill ectotherms. They're not trying to maintain that body temperature like we are, they just cool down, keeping cooling, and just, you know, fade away. Its always put forward as the humane way.
AC: at what point did Australians begin to think that these toads were a problem?
CH: I think people became concerned quite quickly cuz they saw...you know it was clearly a failed agricultural move...the toads werent managing...the beetles come up and they fly off, so there's this very narrow window where the toads and the beetles are at ground level where they can actually even get to the beetles. And really they had very little impact on the beetles. So it was clearly a failed move agriculturally and then see just how common they were, they were rolling up in huge numbers in backyards and spreading quickly down the east coast. People were noticing that wildlife was dying from them, pets were eating them and dying...if a cat or dog eats them, actually bites and swallows them or gets a really good bite, they've got a pretty good chance of dying. Whereas most Brisbane dogs now just ... they're inquisitive, they pick the toad up in their mouth, they mouth it a bit, and they'll froth for awhile, but they wont die. But people started to see that these things were quite a noxious little beast, and becoming incredibly abundant, and they started to get incredibly concerned. And I think people became concerned quite quickly, but then it was already too late. They really got a , you know ...
1 :15:46 AC: how dangerous is the toad to pick up or handle or be around for us?
CH: its not too bad. I think some people have a bit of an allergy against them maybe, that people report handling them and then being sick and all the rest of it, but myself and other researchers that regularly pick the toads up, we never have any problems. Unless you rub your hands throu your eyes, or. . .I've picked up thousands of toads and I've never had any trouble. Or some people, when they're killing them, that maybe they whack them, and maybe the gland shoots out the toxin , it gets in their eyes ... aw really they're not a threat to humans at all.
1:16:27 AC: if you ate one of these toads? CH: if! ate one, I'd die. 1m sure. If! actually ate those perotid glands and all. I'd die or be in serious trouble. I'd have major problems with my breeding ... sorry my ,breathing ... I'd probably have problems with my breeding as well if! was dead ... but I'd ¿have huge problems with my breathing. It's a whole concoction of toxins , its genuinely very nasty. Those glands are packed full of toxins for a reason . AC :-as a biologist, how do you think about this toad? CH: I'm personally seriously concerned. I've had to come to terms with the fact that this toads all thru Brisbane and I have to move away to see certain snakes and that sort of thing. But I'm really concerned with the fact that they're spreading across the north. Its always been to me that, you know, ok there's toads along the east coat of and they ve caused a lot of trouble. Maybe a lot of these species have declined and disappeared from certain areas because of the toad. But its ok, they're still doing ok across the north of aust, cuz a lot of the species around here have a distribution that goes from about Brisbane right across the north of aust following the coast. So its always been, ok so they've still got their stronghold up around the northern territory or north or that sort of business. But now when you see the toad moving into these last pristine wilderness areas of wetlands, it's a major concern to me. And it just disappoints me that people have not really taken to the toad issue. And people are working hard, its not as if its been completely neglected. But a lot of people see it as a pointless situation. The toads are here and they're here to stay and there's not much we can do about it.
1: 18: 19 AC: well what do you think people should do? CH: I think they should be .... obviously people cant go out there and just catch toads and beat them at the front and all the rest of it. Because these are huge areas of land, uninhabited land, there's no way you can control them on the ground. They should be ... and there should have been, a long time ago, more research into diseases that can control them, And lately there has been huge effort put into that, where, going to south america, their natural range, looking for diseases and the things that control them back in south america. You know, why arent they this incredible pest around brazil and venezuela and all these other places where they occur naturally.
1: 19:03 AC: something is controlling them.
CH: yeah, like naturally, anywhere where a species has evolved amongst all thesee other species, its controls, its predators, all these various factors that control them. But when you take something from its native land and put it somewhere else, a few things are missing that just allow them to escape and build up these huge numbers. So people have been going over there and sifting through, looking through, esp focusing on diseases that might be controlling them. And they've trialed a few that are very effective, but the biggest problem is that they're also very effective on native amphibians. Its very hard to find a cane toad-specific disease. You don't want to repeat that whole cane toad biological control tragedy by bringing in another disease that's gonna knock off green tree frogs and all that beloved frogs. So because it was a biological control gone horribly wrong, people are really nervous about biological control on the cane toad, but it would seem that biological through disease would be the way to go. And there's been various other studies, like trying to introduce all these infertile toads to control the spread and breeding at the front. But it has limited and localized effect. Its really ... there's been . nothing trialed yet that is gonna control them.
1 :20:35 AC: but you had said earlier that you actually like these toads.
CH: I do. I like and respect them. When I see a little toad sitting on the. , ground, I think it's a charismatic...I don't find them ugly or anything, they're quite a... maybe even an intelligent looking little beast. They've been so successful here, despite everyone hating them, that you know I really like them. But that doesn't mean I want them to stay. I'd be thrilled if someone could get. rid of the toads overnight, it'd just be brilliant. I find them, they really annoy me when I sit here and I hear them calling like this, cuz you know its, you know, another 20 thousand tadpoles coming into this little pond here. And I do get very annoyed when I see huge numbers of them on the roads, under lights, or ... but then when I come down to the individual toad, I really don't despise the individual toad. Its not his fault he's here, but, yeah ... that's why I don't like killing the individual toad, I'd like to deal with the cane toad as a whole. So..yeah .. .I like them, you've seen them, they're quite a nice tough little animal.
1 :21:47 AC: would you describe ... what does a cane toad look like? CH: it's a large toad, maybe, usually around 15-16 cm in the head and body .. .I think the record is around 24 cm. Quite lumpy ...
AC: just for our american audience, 24 cm would be almost a foot long,
CH: yeah, I think a foots up around 30 cm. So ... they've got those wide toad eyes, the little jewels, they've got big perotid glands, the perotid glands are the glands on the shoulder, which house a lot of the toxin. Quite a lumpy skin, generally brown, the males often get a nice sort of yellow color in breeding season. Just pretty much a robust, strong looking toad. And they've got that beautiful call, quite a soothing call. And they're, you know, they're poisonous but really they're inoffensive. You know they're not coming up and .. .I read these early reports of.. .it said something like, be careful the toads are coming, they'll attack your housewives, and this that and the other, and really they're the most peaceful quiet little animals, sit under the lights, eating insects all night. Its just ... a shame they have such a serious effect on all the natives. You know having said I love toads, I absolutely adore green tree frogs and scarlet (NAME OF FROG) and all the other frogs around here. I just feel sorry for the individual toad that's in Brisbane.
1 :23:43 It was a pretty hard issue a couple of years ago, the whole toad thing. It really flared up, cuz money came up for funding, and people were arguing about which was the best way to go with that funding. And I was a bit disappointed at the time because really to me, the most basic research hasn't been done on exactly what effect do toads have on the native wildlife. And as they come towards kakadu you've got this perfect opportunity to study before and after effects, where you could be going through now, looking at the frog communities, the predator communities, all the rest of it, and then give it a few years and the toads will be there. And then you can go through and look at their impact. So then you'd know the impact , but it'd be too late, cuz you couldn't have stopped them by that stage.
1:24:29 AC: isn't kakadu sort of the yellowstone national parkof aust, I mean it's really ...
CH: it is. It's just this huge wilderness area, it's just spectacular, it's got amazing aboriginal history, aboriginal art over the cliffs, big lost wild areas, escarpments, waterfalls, endemic wildlife. Its really amazing. Are you going up there?
CH: its not gonna be absolutely wrecked. Its not gonna be any less spectacular to visitors , it'll just be .. .it think it'll be disappointing to scientists like myself who go back there in a few years and see toads hopping around on these flood plains where last year when I was there it was thousands of frogs hopping around. I'm sure there will still be thousands of frogs and incredible wildlife, it's just, it'll be a shame to have thousands of toads as well.
AC: why is that the .. .if the toads and frogs are in the same ponds, why is it that the toads to better than other things?
CH: frogs are preyed on by so many animals. Snakes, birds, they really are the mainstay for a huge proportion of the predators in aust. Just the fact that toads are immune to that predation pressure, it just lets them build up the hugest numbers. And then, I'm not so sure and I don't think many people know about the diseases which impact upon frog populations and whether toads are immune to those diseases as well, now being in aust. And you' ll often see, like you can hear around this pond tonight, hundreds of those little green tree frogs too. So toads don't seem to have a huge impact on frogs. A lot of people think that toads, you've got these hundreds of toads marching around at night, eating up all the aust frogs. But from my research and just being out in the field, you can find toads crawling amongst up to 20 other species of frog, and the
frogs can be in as huge numbers as the toads. And there may be problems with tadpoles eating toxic toad eggs and competition between toadpoles and tadpoles and competition amongst frogs and adult toads, but I really don't. . .it's generally acknowledged in the scientific community that toads don't have a huge impacat on the frogs . Its more of those predators that are so used to eating these tasty frogs and not the highly toxic toads. It could be speculated that toads are reducing all these frog predator populations so maybe they're helping frogs. But its just once again, there hasn't been the research to check any of this.
1:27:36 AC: if you could, I wonder if you would just tell me again what we're hearing.
CH: ok. You can hear the (MAKES THE SOUND), which is the toad, you'll hear that .. .it's quiet now ... while it's quiet you can hear all those little ... ok here's the toad again. Doing that. . .it's almost like a stick rattling in a can. Ok, then in the background there you 've got many of the little dainty ... they're called eastern sedge frogs, they're a very small green tree frog that lives amongst water lillies and it's making that sort of (MAKES A SOUND) as if you're pulling a cork from a bottle. Very, extremely abundant, probably the most common Brisbane frog. That noise there is moorehens, coots and ducks distressed. Occasionally you'll hear the sort of screech of a fruit bat. And then I think that's about it. Yeah, that's it.
AC: . ok I think we have everything, do you want us to move away? MW: lets just get a minute right here, right now, we can use it as a moment of silence. MW: ok here's the ambience, quiet on the set.
1:29:20-1:1:31:04 AMB MW: ok end of ambience. What's the name of this pond? CH: University of, on campus.
1:31:50 END OF DAT