Queensland is home to several iconic Big Things of Australia; the Big Cane Toad is a good example. If you have been following our blog, by now, you probably know that we love the Big Things and we hope that you do too. If unsure, then we hope this blog will be your starting point in the journey to discover Australia’s Big Things. These oversized structures have put so many Australian towns and cities in the limelight, and the obsession keeps getting stronger.
What is The Big Cane Toad?
The Big Cane Toad is an oversized sculpture of the cane toad, also known as the giant neotropical toad or marine toad. This toad originates from South and Central America and is considered the world’s largest.
Female cane toads are usually longer than males, sometimes reaching up to 15 centimetres. Interestingly, both male and female cane toads can live up to 15 years!
Location of the Big Cane Toad
The Big Cane Toad sits in the town centre of Sarina, a rural coastal town in the Mackay Region, Queensland, Australia.
History of the Big Cane Toad
To understand why the Big Cane Toad was constructed, we will begin by explaining the behaviour of these terrestrial creatures. Historically, the cane toads helped sugarcane farmers get rid of pests from sugarcane plantations in Martinique island and Barbados in the early 1840s. In 1844, this toad was introduced in Jamaica to control the rising population of rats, and also in Puerto Rico in the 20th century to get rid of beetles damaging the sugarcane plantations. However, in Jamaica, the toads failed to control the rodent population.
After successfully getting rid of beetles in sugarcane plantations in Puerto Rico, the cane toad attracted the attention of scientists in the 1930s and was officially recognised as a viable solution to eliminate agricultural pests.
Now, let’s head back to the town of Sarina, where the Big Cane Toad sits.
Sugarcane farming and milling are some of the major economic activities in this coastal region. Sarina is also home to Plane Creek sugar mill, owned by the Singaporean company Wilmar International Limited.
By now, you probably understand the connection between the Big Cane Toad and the town of Sarina.
In 1935, cane toads were introduced in Queensland and quickly spread into New South Wales and the Northern Territory. The toads were considered the perfect candidates for the pest-elimination job because of their ability to breed rapidly and spread across large swaths of land within a short period, and especially after their success in Hawaii and the Philippines.
A total of 102 toads were shipped from Hawaii to Australia and released into the wild in August 1935. The Commonwealth Department of Health, however, decided to ban future introduction of the cane toads in Australia, pending further research into their feeding habits. The study, completed in 1936, lead to the release of 62,000 toadlets into the wild by March 1937.
Due to their natural ability to reproduce in large numbers, the toads quickly settled in Queensland and then spread into the Northern Territory and New South Wales. In 2010, a resident of Broome, Western Australia, discovered a cane toad on Monday morning in a shed at the industrial area of Kimberly town, and informed the Department of Environment and Conservation. The discovery was a true testimony of just how far and wide these toads could travel after being released into the wild.
Unfortunately, the cane toads were unable to reduce the population of the targeted grey-backed cane beetles. Their failure was mainly because of two reasons; the cane fields did not provide sufficient shelter for the predators during the day, and given that the toads were not good climbers, they could not reach the beetles, which primarily live at the tops of sugar cane.
To commemorate the town’s sugarcane industry and the story of the cane toads, the Big Cane Toad structure was constructed in 1983 for a parade float for the Apex Sugar Festival.
Interesting facts about the Big Cane Toad in Sarina
The Big Cane Toad goes by the nickname ‘Buffy’, which derives from the species name bufo marinus. It is made from fibreglass, and sits on Broad Street, also known as the Bruce Highway, which passes through the centre of the town.
The nickname ‘Buffy’ was generated by a group of high school students in a Community Builders – ‘Name the Toad’ competition in 1998.
Buffy has been stolen several times in the past. To reduce the cases of theft, the iconic frog sculpture has been chained to the concrete slab it sits on. While the introduction of the chain seems effective, it has not stopped people from decorating ‘Buffy’ with ‘Queenslander’ flags.
The Big Cane Toad has also been renovated severally; in 2016, for example, it was cleaned and repainted by the Mackay Regional Council. The renovation also included the introduction of lighting and landscaping in the area surrounding the big toad sculpture.
After years of neglect, the Big Cane Toad is considered a local treasure, a popular tourist attraction, and the face of the town. When you visit this historic sculpture, you’ll be amazed by the beauty of its surroundings. You will find public parking spots, a gazebo, rubbish bins, picnic tables, toilets, and a serene environment perfect for relaxation and photo shoots with this huge statue.
If you enjoyed this article we think you’d love reading about The Big Bogan!
We also have a Big Things store featuring T-shirts on some of the most famous big things in Australia. These include The Big penguin, The Big Kangaroo, The Big Jumping Crocodile and The Giant Koala. They are available in baby sizes all the way up to adult sizes.