Esther Beaton


Mating Madness

Male Cane toads jump on anything that moves
Any shoe will do when the need is high for a mate.

You’ve all heard about the rampaging Cane Toads, right? How for the first few decades after introduction they stayed in Queensland? Then suddenly, say about the year 2000, they spread. Like the plague. They even hit the Kimberley in the west and Sydney in the south.

One reason they are so rampant in their reproduction success is that they like to, well, reproduce. The male cane toad is unstoppable when his hormones are up. (You know the type, right?) I’ve even had the “honour” or being mated by a cane toad myself. He didn’t quite finish the job, thankfully. He got only as far as my shoe but he was having a jolly good time down there.

Male Cane toads jump on anything that moves including photographer's foot. Rockhampton, Queensland.
Male Cane toads romances photographer’s foot (mine).
Mating cane toads won't let go, even when being picked up.
Mating cane toads won’t let go, even when being picked up











Like a bad date, I remember that night so well. It was up there in Townsville. I was shooting the story on cane toads for Australian Geographic, and I wanted to get nighttime shots. It had rained heavily earlier in the day and as a result the dark woodlands were as loud as an international airport. The calling cacophony of frogs was everywhere, each species drowning out the last. But the champ was the cane toad. Those bully-boys muscled themselves around everywhere, like unstoppable tanks racing off everything that moved. Including shoes. Mine.

Cane Toads (Bufo marinus) male in amplexus with female
Cane Toad male in amplexus with female in farm dam near Rockhampton, Queensland.
Aggressive cane toads battle for single female.
One male cane toad kicks off another as they both attempt to mate a single female
Millions of cane toad tadpoles.
The results of the cane toad ‘s voracious sexual appetite: tadpoles in the millions. And millions.
Cane toad density at a farm dam.
The density of cane toad at a farm dam is about two toads every foot. Can you imagine the density?












Yeah, that’s why they’re successful breeders.

(This story was published way long time ago in Australian Geographic. But I’m recalling it now because there’s a short piece about me and this assignment in the current edition (Jan-Feb 2016). Surprisingly, the assignment had a big impact on me and could quite possibly be one reason I delayed going back to the States. For a couple decades.)


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