We’ve got a new species here at the zoo! While they look fairly unassuming, these new animals are set to make a splash. Everyone, welcome the new cane toads! Worf, Worfina, and Goldie were generously donated by Brian Allen, and are just so special we couldn’t wait to tell you all about them!
First off, cane toads are considered an invasive species here in the United States. These toads are originally from Central and South America, and were introduced by humans as a pest control measure in sugar cane fields. This happened to spectacularly backfire, as the toads didn’t eat the beetles that they were supposed to, and instead began to reproduce and spread across the southern states. What makes them harmful and invasive instead of just an introduced species is that they out-compete native toads for food; they have been known to eat 20x the amount of food of a similarly sized native toad species. They feed on a variety of insects, but as they grow larger they will begin to eat anything that fits in their mouth, including matter that is already dead. They have no set breeding season and reproduce year round, which is problematic as they can spawn up to 30,000 eggs in a single spawning event. In prime habitat, cane toad populations can reach up to 2,000 toads per hectare. That’s 2 toads every 10 square meters! Aside from outcompeting native toad species, these toads have another nasty trick up their sleeve… poison.
The cane toad has a large gland located behind the eye. When stressed or scared, these toads ooze a milky white liquid called Bufotoxin. This toxin is present in all the life cycles of the cane toad, even down to the tadpoles and eggs. When this toxin comes in contact with skin, it reddens and swells. If it enters a cut on the body or is ingested, the poison affects breathing, blood pressure, and heartbeat. Victims may excessively salivate, vomit, or become paralyzed. This nasty substance has actually been the cause of some controversy; it is considered a class 1 drug in Australia, right up there with cannabis and heroin, as it can also bring on hallucinations if ingested. Before you go getting any ideas, this toxin can also bring on an acute case of dead, so avoid touching/licking/mouthing the toads. Here at the Reptile Zoo we do not play around, and always handle these toads with gloves to avoid any contact with this nasty poison. While there is usually not enough toxin to kill an adult human, children and especially family pets are at risk. Many dogs and cats have unfortunately become victims of cane toad poison.
Check out the little pores in the paratoid gland! That's where the poison comes out
All that nastiness aside, we couldn’t be more excited to have these toads here! You all know we have a soft spot for freakishly large animals, and while these toads aren’t quite there yet, we know that one day they’ll be outstripping our African Bullfrogs in size! So make sure you come by and admire Worf, Worfina, and Goldie in their new home next to our giant python habitat!