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Rest in Peace, Toadzilla

by Brenda Mao

We are gathered here today in remembrance of a very special creature: Toadzilla.

On January 12th, 2023, park rangers in the Conway National Park of Queensland, Australia were conducting track work when they stopped in their tracks. They had originally stopped to avoid a snake, but noticed a curious sight – a colossal toad, sitting on the forest floor. These rangers identified the amphibian as a cane toad (Rhinella marina), which usually weighs around three pounds and spans 4-6 inches. However, this incredible toad weighed 5.95 pounds and spanned 1.3 feet, breaking the Guinness World Record for the heaviest toad, and was hence dubbed “Toadzilla.”

Unfortunately, cane toads are invasive and cause extensive damage in Australia. Like most invasive species, they compete with native species for resources, consequently causing the native species to suffer. 

Native to Central and South America, around 2,400 cane toads were originally introduced by the Australian government in 1935 to eat cane beetles, which had been destroying sugar cane crops. This was a very risky move by the government and turned out to have disastrous consequences. The toads didn’t seem to affect the beetle population and had instead spread quickly throughout the nation, laying 8,000-30,000 eggs in a year. Cane toads now number in the millions in Australia, and are considered one of the worst invasive species in the world, expanding their territory about 25-37 miles per year. They have led to local extinctions of some of their predators and can be fatally poisonous to wildlife.

As an invasive species, the cane toad has no natural predators in Australia. As such, they must all be collected and removed by hand. Furthermore, these toads can release a poison known as bufotoxin from glands above their shoulders, which can cause cardiac arrest and psychedelic effects. This poison is so potent that animals who try to eat cane toads will die almost instantly once they bite into them. Due to Toadzilla’s size, the park rangers believed that she will eat just about anything that can fit in their mouths, such as insects, birds, lizards, small mammals, and other frogs.

Toadzilla, presumed to be a female because of her size, was unfortunately euthanized on January 19th, 2023, a week after she had been discovered by the park rangers. The Queensland Department of Environment and Science determined that she was too dangerous, and would negatively impact the park’s ecosystem. Toadzilla’s body was sent to the Queensland Museum for further investigation. 

She was toxic, but she didn’t ask to be. May she rest in peace.

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