Libby Robin reviews 'Cane Toad Wars' by Rick Shine

Libby Robin reviews 'Cane Toad Wars' by Rick Shine

Cane Toad Wars

by Rick Shine

University of California Press (Footprint), $49.99 hb, 288 pp, 9780520295100

Cane Toads are peculiarly Australian. They don’t belong, yet they thrive here. They breed unnaturally fast – even faster than rabbits. They are ugly, ecosystem-changing, and despised. Introduced in 1935 to eat the pests of sugar cane in Queensland, their numbers have exploded right across Australia’s tropical north. They are famously ‘unnatural’, since Mark Lewis’s popular 1988 film Cane toads: An Unnatural History.

Only in Australia, where they have no close relatives, are they called Cane Toads (their scientific name is Rhinella marinus, formerly Bufo marinus). Originally from South America, the species is now widespread internationally, but its success in Australia is legendary. Elsewhere, toads are common and much loved, part of literary and cultural traditions, and even ‘harbingers of spring’. Here, where cane toads have a history of just eight decades, they are bad news.

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Published in October 2018, no. 405
Libby Robin

Libby Robin

Libby Robin FAHA is a prize-winning author of sixteen books, including How a Continent Created a Nation, The Flight of the Emu and Boom and Bust: Bird Stories for a Dry Country. She is Emeritus Professor at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University and worked with a number of museums including the National Museum of Australia and the Deutsches Museum, Munich, Germany. Her next book, The Environment: A History of the Idea (co-authored with Paul Warde and Sverker Sörlin) will be published by Johns Hopkins University Press in October 2018.


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