Australia was suffering from a rather troubling dilemma back in 1935. Cane beetles, a particularly annoying pest, were consuming most of the year’s sugar harvest. Something had to be done to combat the growing threat, so a group of prominent citizens got together and decided to introduce 102 cane toads into the ecosystem. These small reptiles had already been used to fight vermin in Puerto Rico and Hawaii, where they had reportedly achieved a fair degree of success. What could possibly go wrong?
As it turned out, an awful lot. Australia had no indigenous toad population, and the 102 rapidly became 3000. This was initially considered to be a good thing, because a larger number meant they’d get the job done faster, but those toads kept breeding, and breeding, until it reached the point where you couldn’t have a dingo eat your baby without stepping on one. They were also introduced at precisely the wrong time of year to go after the beetle larva (which were still in the ground), so the farmers had to resort to the use of chemicals anyway in order to deal with the original problem.
The toads, meanwhile, continued to spread out all over the continent. They devoured the food of the indigenous wildlife, jumping ahead in line as toads are known to do, and those who ate them immediately perished because the skin of the cane toad is incredibly poisonous. More than that, they carried a wide number of devastating diseases with them, and a huge part of Australia’s natural biosystem was summarily wiped out due to the hopping, croaking menace.
Another interesting bit of trivia: What happens if you keep feeding a cane toad? It gets bigger. And Bigger. And BIGGER. People who visit Australia often marvel at the size of Cradle Mountain, not realizing that it’s actually a morbidly obese cane toad taking a nap. As for the rest of the toads, the University of Queenland recently discovered a gene that switches the females to males. If they can find a way to introduce it into the general population, this would theoretically cause the cane toads to die out. You can understand if they’re a bit hesitant to try this, however.