Queensland, Australia -- A bushie's amazingly simple and uncomplicated invention is being credited with rescuing Australia from the Cane Toad swarm. Cane Toads are a spreading plague across Northeast Australia, a front moving at 125 km per year in places. Without this cowboy's simple, but effective "Toad Muzzle," it's likely the entire continent island would be overrun within 12-14 years.
The transformation for this very fortunate 27 year old from the outback has been dramatic. From a gruff and lonely existence riding horses all day and penning cattle, this incredible young man is now the "Pride of the Top End."
"I can't believe what's happened to me. I'm stunned. I was battlin, broke and sore just six months ago. Now I'm washing in Jacuzzi tubs and downin exy malts."
His name is Jack Cumming and he's now a superhero in Australia which has so quickly gone from threatened to thankful.
The Toad Muzzle is really a protector for the mouth, made of greenie gauze-like cloth tied with string. It was first used on pigs, then dogs and has gone thru several design evolutions to its present sleek, efficient form. The mouth guard "muzzle" is a barrier to the toxic flesh, wraps the near dead toad so no one has to touch it, and gets disposed of along with the animal.
"As with many inventions, they seem so obvious, yet this one eluded us for years. Now we'll try the same technique with other pests," announced Kody Knach-Oh, Professor of Ecological Studies at Darwin University and Cane Toad trapping expert.
Mr. Cumming told his story. "On the ranch the pigs were always pickin up f'n toads in their mouths and getting burnt. You see toads got poison on the skins which inflame the pig's mouth. So we have to put something in their mouth to protect from getting messed up and that was the first Toad Muzzle. The pigs keep picking up toads anyway and it wasn't hurting.
"Then I outfit one of them lazy ass hounds. He got liver snaps for picking up toads and dropping in a bucket. Before you know it he's got up a dozen and I worry he might get some weird sickness from toad skin. But nope he's happy as ever, working off the extra food and thrilled to have a purpose in life other than lying on the porch. And nope, he has no ill affect from any toads, still going strong too."
Jack made a few dozen more of the mouth guards, got some kilos of dry ice, and the operation went big. With all the dogs in the vicinity capturing toads, over one million were collected and frozen within two weeks. In fact, no toads are left within a 12 km radius of Jack's house in the outback where this all started. All of Jack's neighbors were fattin with Cane Toad reward money.
Veterinarians and state health officials have permitted use the muzzle, and there's no plan to do any testing. To date its known one dog has received an injured foot from a natural obstacle. The Canine Protection and Promotion Guild has requested it be allowed to monitor the operation, intervening where necessary. Already one rat size dog has been denied participation fearing its own safety.
The invention is only three weeks old and a huge success, ensuing new problems, from a shortage of dog treats to an overwhelming number of captured toads. The State of Queensland has met the challenge having quickly mobilized a military like effort to take immediate advantage of this amazing turn of fortune for its citizens. Freezer Lorries, collection buckets, and an army of eager dogs and dog handlers now fan out across towns and outback. Mini-factories crank out the cloth and string dog muzzles good for one use each. And biologists search stripped areas for any remnants of the once thriving amphibian.
The state ran out of reward money weeks ago, no matter, it's estimated the entire population of cane toads will be cleaned up within an astonishing eight months.
Then what will the dogs of Queensland do?
As for Jack, he says there are more ideas on his drawing board.
TRUE FACTSCANE TOADS were unwisely introduced into Northeast Australia in 1935 to help eradicate cane beetles which were ravishing the cane crop. The toads have since thrived and multiplied, in some places reaching infestation density. They certainly have had a negative impact on the native biodiversity and ecology. Killing them is usually done with an attractant, such as light; the animals are picked up with an implement, frozen, and shipped to a factory where they make liquid fertilizer. Don't feel sorry for the scientist who loses his livelihood because of Jack.