We’ve recently enjoyed some educational encounters of an amphibious kind.

Green tree frogs are native to Australia, and in suburban Queensland, they’re the sign of a healthy, chemical-free garden. When David caught one the other night, he brought it inside to show the girls.

I knew something was up because David positioned himself directly beside us on the couch and feigned interest in the book I was reading to the three girls. However, Calista erupted into conniptions when the frog escaped from David’s grasp and leaped past her and onto the carpet.

Calista, 20 months old, December 2009
Calista didn't ever get over her fear of the frog and refused to touch it.

Brioni, 3yo, December 2009
We finally convinced Brioni to give it a quick pat. Its skin was sticky and clammy, rather than slimey.

Green tree frog
And *I* was delighted when the green tree frog started to poo in David's hand: "Look, girls!"

One enemy of green tree frogs is the cane toad, an imported menace brought to Australia as a biological control of beetles that plagued sugar cane plantations. With no natural predators, cane toads have taken over large parts of Australia, wiping out native species by either stealing their habitats, eating them, or poisoning them.

Cane toad, November 2009
This is just a small one. Cane toads can weigh up to 2.5 kilograms and females can lay 20,000 eggs at a time.

Cane toad, November 2009
Cane Toads produce a cocktail of highly-toxic, biologically-active substances. These substances are concentrated in their warty skin and are secreted by two large glands behind the eyes. (You can see the white poisonous droplets that David has squeezed out.)

Cane toad, November 2009
David demonstrates how cane toads can secrete their poison if they're attacked. Household pets can die if they eat a cane toad.

Toxins are also present in muscles, bones and body organs, and in their eggs and tadpoles. Cane toads are passive and not harmful when left alone, but their toxins are very dangerous if eaten or rubbed into the skin or the eyes.

For a closer look at cane toads, I recommend this very entertaining film Cane Toads – An Unnatural History. Even those who are familiar with the introduction of cane toads to Australia will find this quirky documentary fascinating. (The videos that follow-on from this first clip are also on YouTube from the same user.)