Photo: ‘Rambo’ was picked up a couple of years ago, facing west and still moving despite his puffed up state.
“We have even observed these toads swimming against the flow of flooded rivers, using logs and debris to travel on and more recently have found toads several kilometres from land in the middle of Lake Argyle” stated Sharon McLachlan, KTB secretary). “What is even more frightening is their resilience. These toads, irrespective of injuries are determined to keep travelling west and I have no doubt they will reach Perth eventually” added Sharon.
|Photo: Despite serious injuries from a bush fire this toad was still facing west and moving rapidly.
|Kimberley Toad Busters volunteers also quickly established that there was a clear and hitherto unknown pattern emerging in the behaviour and characteristics of frontline toads making their way into WA. Leading the cane toad pack are the predominantly male explorer toads accompanied by the odd, very large gravid female. “These toads are huge” stated Ben Scott-Virtue, Field co-ordinator. “The females are often, on average, as large as 17.5 cm from snout to tail bone and the males around 14 to15cm. Their back legs are between 2cm to 4cm longer than their bodies and the pads of their feet are blackened and calloused from constant travelling. They can often be up to 30 km in front of the main breeding colonising front” he added.
|Photo: pads of their feet are blackened and calloused from constant travelling.
Photo’s: 15cm Male with back legs measuring 18.5 cm feeding on Lady Bugs.
KTB have further established that once these colonisers have decided on the ideal breeding ground they begin to call in the closest ‘wave’ of the ‘breeders’, or the ‘breeding population’ travelling behind them. Once the breeding population has been established and the very large females have dropped their eggs the ‘explorer toads’ then move on. It has also been noted by KTB that other male toads, having reached full mature size often join the older male ‘coloniser’ toads to become a part of the ‘first wave’ to hit a new pristine area.
|KTB have observed that in dry landscapes these ‘explorer’ toads use cattle trails and moist cow dung to move between water holes. When they are confronted by really dry conditions they simply use the deepest and dampest burrow or other ground hollow to hibernate in, often sacrificing the uppermost layer of toads to ensure that some survive. “We have dug up to 30 toads out of a deep burrow months after the area has dried out and it is obvious they are simply waiting for the next rain” stated Lee Scott-Virtue KTB President & founder. “All previous cane toad invasion predictions have been wrong and anyone seriously thinking that the Great Sandy Desert is going to stop these invading ‘Rambo’s’ has got to do some serious re-thinking, or spend as much time observing colonising frontline cane toads as we do”.
One positive is that KTB have observed that the ‘explorer’ and colonising front line toads that have made it into WA are now seeing humans and spot lights as a threat. “Toads are now hopping away instead of just sitting when walking up to them” stated John Cugley KTB Administrative coordinator.
He further added “all our volunteers are recording this response. Gone are the days of seeing a toad on the road, having time to park the car and casually walk up to the toad. These days it is all split timing, otherwise they are off into the bush and the chase is on”.
KTB wonder if this means that toads at the colonising front line have even honed up their reflexes as well as all the other evolutionary steps they have taken since they set out from Queensland 77 years ago.
Ben Scott-Virtue 08 91682576
John Cugley 08 91682576
Lee Scott-Virtue 08 91687080