Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Frog Invaders

Back in 1995, Fox produced an episode of the Simpsons called "Bart vs. Australia", where the characters traveled, precisely, to Australia. From among the series of adventures that the Simpsons lived in their journey, I remember one in which Bart smuggled a frog past customs into Australia, where such animals were non existent. The result is that th frogs became a plague in such country after the Simpsons fled in a chopper.
When I watched such episode, I thought that the joke about the frogs was hilarious. What I didn't know (and now I should admit my short knowledge about Australian history) is that such joke is actually based in a real incident. It happens that, in 1935, a certain type of toad (named Cane Toad) native to Central and South America was imported to Australia, in an attempt to control the Cane beetles that were devastating the sugar cane plantations in the northeastern region of Queensland. It looks that the idea wasn't that wise after all: Although the initial amount of toads was slightly superior to 100 animals, their population has grown fast; today it is estimated that a total population of 200 million cane toads live in Australia. And yes, they're considered a pest.
Having millions of toads would not be an issue to worry about if these animals weren't poisonous. The toads are now well adapted to the Australian environment and ecosystem, and due to the high concentrations of toxic venom in their bodies, they have contributed to significantly reduce the populations of other species, especially of those that actually eat them.
Some Australian environmentalists, mainly those aware of the delicate equilibrium of the Australian ecosystems, have decided to take actions to fight the toads. One of the most notorious (and radical) projects is Frogwatch, an organization committed to bringing down the amount of Cane toads living in Australia to a reasonable number that assures that the ecosystems are not negatively affected by their presence. They launched a program called Toad Buster, in which they encourage people to trap these animals. The specimens collected are killed afterwards and the remains are then converted into fertilizers.
Toads are gross by nature. I don't know whether Frogwatch's objectives are ethical or not; what I can say is that, once these facts are known, the joke that appeared in The Simpsons is not that funny anymore.

For more information about the Frogwatch project, visit their website by clicking here.


At 1:54 PM , Blogger Freedomnow said...

Is this where you go to confess your sins?

I once swatted a fly 17 years ago and regret it to this day.

Its tough being an animal with the awareness to grasp the consequences of our actions.

But then again I can always access the reptilian part of my brain to swat another one...

What a brute I am...

At 4:59 PM , Blogger Eddie said...

I think I know what you mean. All this massacre against the little toads could have been avoided if those specimens weren't introduced to Australia. Now those are the consequences. Another hit to our environment record as humans.


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