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Thousands of cane toads killed in Australia

Authorities in the Australian state of Queensland have successfully enlisted the public's help in a mass cull of cane toads.

Authorities in the Australian state of Queensland have successfully enlisted the public's help in a mass cull of cane toads.

Amelia Elgar weighs a cane toad at a collection point in Cairns on Sunday. ((Brian Cassey/Associated Press))

Thousands of the fast-breeding amphibians were captured Saturday night in the inaugural Toad Day Out hunt in five communities.

On Sunday, the pests were brought to collection points and examined by experts before being killed, either by freezing or by being placed in plastic bags filled with carbon dioxide.

The toads, which can grow up to 20 centimetres in length, are native to Central and South America. They were introduced to Queensland in 1935 in a failed attempt to control beetles on sugarcane plantations.

The trouble was, the toads couldn't jump high enough to eat the beetles, which live on top of cane stalks. The toads quickly became pests to farmers, with each adult female capable of producing 20,000 eggs.

Cane toads produce a venom that is released from their skin when they're under extreme stress. The animals are only harmful to humans if their poison is swallowed.

Dogs have been known to quickly die from the toxin if they bite one of the toads. The toads are more of a menace to the smaller animals they ingest, such as frogs, small reptiles, mammals and birds.

Toad Day Out is the brainchild of Queensland Liberal Nationals MP Shane Knuth, who wants to take the celebratory cull nationwide.

Children taking part in the event were given prizes for collecting the fattest toads and for having the heaviest total weight of toads. Hundreds of participants snacked on sausages and sipped cold drinks as their hauls were examined.

Some of the remains will be ground into fertilizer for sugarcane farmers.

With files from the Associated Press