Basel Zoo’s cane toad terrarium has been
completely renovated: the toads’ modern dwelling now has two floors, a
moisturising sprinkler system and a small waterfall.
Basel Zoo’s cane toads live in the Australis house.
The single female toad is currently enjoying the newly renovated terrarium.
Male cane toads are smaller than the female toads, meaning that they are in
danger of being eaten by the females, who are not exactly squeamish. Said females
are truly enormous, with the one at Basel Zoo being around the size of a soup
bowl and weighing in at about a kilogram. Cane toads are the largest toad
species in existence.
The benefits of a modern toad terrarium
The cane toad seems to be enjoying its modernised
home. A sprinkler system, waterfall, LED illumination and a UV light are joined
by other conveniences: a small pond fed by the waterfall, a damp cavern, and
new areas with a natural ground substrate all ensure pleasant surroundings. The
terrarium has also been replanted.
Cane toads originally come from Central
and South America. In the Australis house, they show what can happen when
species are introduced to foreign continents. The cane toad was introduced to
various Caribbean islands in the 19th century as a way of controlling pests in
the sugar cane plantations. They were supposed to combat insect pests, in
particular the greyback cane beetle. The success of this is now disputed, but
nevertheless the 1930s saw many cane toads being introduced to Australia for
pest control purposes. This had catastrophic consequences: cane toads spread
rapidly and soon became a nuisance all of their own. They reproduce extremely
quickly when the conditions are right, and unfortunately feed on mouse-sized
mammals and reptiles rather than exclusively on beetles. In large numbers, cane
toads can even drive some species to the brink of extinction. Their skin also
has glands which contain venom that poses a danger to many mammals: even dogs will
often die of poisoning as a result of eating cane toads.