Sunday, 31 July 2016

Crow eats Cane Toad

The deliberate release of Cane Toads to control beetles in Australian sugar cane crops has been a complete disaster. For starters the toad, which does not climb, did not have any impact on the problem beetles which were high up on the sugar cane out of reach of the toads. Then, without any limitations in Australia their numbers exploded and their range spread across the tropical north of Australia. Their spread is nearly complete as they are now in WA and the eastern end of the Kimberly.

Being poisonous the toads have killed and driven to local extinction large numbers of reptile species such as large snakes and monitors and other animals such as quolls. In my view the Cane Toad has been a serious human error and an ecological tragedy of enormous scale – it makes me angry whenever I think of it, which is often when I am visiting the Top End or Tropical Queensland.

While camped at Gunlom in Kakadu National Park we witnessed a Torresian Crow hunting and eating Cane Toads. I have seen reports of native animals learning to avoid the poison glands and eat Cane Toads.

One morning we had a very close view of a Crow which flew in to a small water hole below our camp site and shortly after flew off with a Cane Toad in its bill. The toad body was about 50mm long (excluding legs) and clearly visible as the Crow flew off. Later another, or quite possibly the same crow, returned to the same water hole where it found and killed a toad. It then proceeded to eat the toad by flipping it onto its back and eating out the body and legs from the underside. 

Apologies for the quality of the photos.

Click on images to enlarge.

The crow has killed the toad and flipped it onto its back. There is blood about the throat area of the toad.

The crow is removing flesh from the between the back legs of the toad.

Close up of Cane Toad shortly after being killed and partially eaten – back legs are on the right of the photo.

It is good to know that at least some native animals are learning to eat Cane Toads. It is not surprising to me that an intelligent corvid species has done so. At present we must hope our native animals can adapt to the Cane Toad however let’s hope a permanent solution can be found to eradicate the Cane Toad.

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