Cane Toad (palakang-tubó)

Cane Toad at Rizal Recreation Center Rhinella marina philippines manila
Cane Toad at Rizal Recreation Center

They’re big. They’re bumpy. They run into your feet in the night.

Everyone has seen the huge tubó hopping around Sakahang Lilok and throughout Manila. But you might not know that these toads aren’t from the Philippines! How did they get here, and what are they doing?

Some Cane Toads seen around Lilok Farm

Cane Toads come from South America, where they are known as “Marine Toads” or “Giant Toads”. They were brought to the Philippines in 1930 by sugarcane farmers who thought the toads might eat beetles and other pests in their fields. It didn’t work! Instead of eating the beetles, the toads ate every other animal they could get their mouths around. Soon these invasive Cane Toads became the most common amphibian in the Philippines.

Unfortunately, the Cane Toads are now regarded as a pest – they eat the native wildlife and displace other animals that were here first.

Where do they live?

Cane Toads are found in open areas, especially fields, farms, lawns, and other places where humans live. During breeding season they need shallow water to lay their eggs.

What do they eat?

They will eat anything they can grab, mostly insects, millipedes, and snails but also smaller frogs, lizards, and rodents. They eat both things that are beneficial to the farm and things that are harmful.

Are they dangerous?

The skin of a Cane Toad is poisonous! If you ever pick up a Cane Toad, you should wash your hands before eating, otherwise you might get sick.

There is some poison across the entire back of the toad, but the main place the Cane Toad stores poison is in its “paratoid glands”, the big bump right behind its eardrum. When the toad feels threatened, white creamy poison will seep out of each gland. That poison is dangerous! Dogs and cats have died from biting a cane toad. Even wild animals like water monitors and big snakes have died from trying to eat the toads.

cane toad diagram eardrum parotoid gland poison
That huge bump behind the eardrum is where the poison is held

Are they in danger?

It’s the opposite – Cane Toads are a danger to everything else! They are a danger to the small animals they eat, and they are a danger to the large animals that try to eat them. They are also a threat to native wildlife that lives in the same niche but cannot compete with the toads. Cane Toads have impacted the population of other species in many countries.

In Australia and other areas where the toads have caused problems for wildlife, they hold events to kill as many of the toads as possible. Unfortunately, they appear very difficult to get rid of. The toads can be eaten by people so long as their skin and poison glands are removed. Leather novelty items are made from their skin and they can even be used as fertilizer.

What is their scientific name and classification?

The Cane Toad is scientifically known as Rhinella marina. They are members of the true toad family, which are a group of frogs that have rough warty skin, short legs, paratoid glands behind the ears, and spend most of the time on land instead of in the water.

Some Cane Toads seen at Rizal Re-creation Center

What do you think Sakahang Lilok should do with its Cane Toads?

1 thought on “Cane Toad (palakang-tubó)

  1. Pingback: A bit of Manila – Reptiles and Amphibians of Bangkok

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