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Australia's Cane Toads

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April 24, 2000 -- Today, National Public Radio/National Geographic Society Radio Expeditions takes you to Australia, where, a plague of toads is spreading rapidly across the northern, tropical part of the country, often with devastating effect.

The creatures -- called cane toads -- were brought in from South America decades ago to help control a beetle pest that ate sugarcane crops. The toads turned out to be worthless at controlling beetles, but very good at reproducing and moving throughout the countryside.

Cane toads would be a simple nuisance except for the fact that they are highly poisonous. People have learned to avoid them, but much of Australia's wildlife has not. Now the toads are advancing toward one of the world's great natural reserves, and scientists worry that cane toad blight may drive other species to extinction.

Listen as NPR's Alex Chadwick reports for Morning Edition on the dilemma of the cane toad.


The poisonous cane toad The poisonous cane toad
Photo: Conrad Hoskin




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