I am always reluctant to kill an animal – any animal – but I am less reluctant than usual when it comes to Cane Toads. They are a real pest up here and are spreading steadily to the south and north-west, decimating local wildlife as they go. They breed prodigiously, eat nearly anything that is smaller than themselves, and poison our predators.
The only not-so-dark spot on the horizon is that surviving native predators do seem to learn to deal with them, avoiding them and then, apparently, learning to eat them without getting poisoned, e.g. by flipping them over and eating everything except the poison glands on the top of the head. Whatever the reasons, anecdotal evidence from long-term residents suggests cane toad numbers and size around Townsville have dropped in the last forty years.
That is good, but it would be even better to knock their numbers down still further: hence Toad Day Out.
After the success of Toad Day Out in 2009, 2010 and 2011, it has become an annual event. You can join with the rest of your local community and play your part in reducing the numbers of these pests in a humane way. When – Sunday 25 March Where – Thuringowa Soundshell Time – 8.30am
The discovery should remind us how little we still know about the living world around us. We have been systematically naming and classifying creatures for nearly two hundred years but are still finding new animals, even quite large ones (e.g. the Saola), in remote areas and we are not even close to knowing all the insects around us. For instance, the introduction to CSIRO’s Australian Moths Online notes that, ‘There are about 22 000 species of Australian moths, of which only half have been described [i.e. scientifically identified] so far.’
We don’t usually think of sharks amongst the natural world’s great lovers but perhaps we’re being unfair.
I have been a volunteer at Reef HQ Aquarium for a couple of years now, and I have gradually been getting into the habit of taking my camera in with me. A little while ago I spotted the female Leopard shark, Leonie, lying back in what looks like bliss while the male, Leo, nibbled her fins amorously.
It is typical courtship behaviour for the species (and it must work well for this couple because they have produced several offspring for Reef HQ) but I do find the parallels with human behaviour amusing and thought-provoking. One recent thought is that we usually say ‘how like people’ animals are when they behave like we do, but that way of putting it is really back to front: people evolved from lower animals, not the other way round, so it’s very likely some of our behaviour patterns, as well as our genes, are inherited from them.
So next time you spot a couple of teenagers kissing and cuddling you might think, ‘How like sharks they are!’
P.S. Crocs do it too: I didn’t know how romantic crocodiles were until I came across this description recently.
There is a sequence of talks and shows through the day – birds, koalas, (small) reptiles, dingos and so on, culminating in the largest reptiles. The snakes and lizards show was entertaining, as well as informative, partly because of the visitors’ responses.
‘Does anyone want to put this Woma around their neck?’ Response: trepidation.
‘What about this Boa Constrictor?’ Response: consternation.
But the relaxed attitude of the staff holding the snakes did reassure the visitors, and quite a few were confident enough to step forward.
Visitors were not, however, invited to step forward and handle the snappy logs. The crocodiles were quite lethargic because of the cool weather but still not to be taken lightly. Both of our Australian species were presented:
The Freshwater Crocodile (Crocodylus johnstoni) can grow to about 3 m in length but are usually 1.5 – 2 m. They are primarily fish-eaters, though they will also take insects, amphibians and small mammals; they are unaggressive and are considered harmless to people.
The Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is quite a different proposition. The world’s largest living reptile, it can grow to at least 7 m and 1300 kg, and large individuals can tackle prey up to the size of a water buffalo. There are very few fatal attacks on people but staying well away from them is strongly recommended!
The first of these two pictures shows one of the Sanctuary’s larger salties; the second shows a considerably smaller animal.