Rabbits, Foxes and Toads

We were at dinner here the other night and the question was raised about the relationship between the English and the Australians, especially in view of the great cricket tragedy that unfolded recently (Australians hate to lose to the English at anything … and the English hate to win at all at anything as it then becomes expected that they can do it a second time).

I noted that when the First Fleet arrived in Australia, it was full of convicts, criminals and such, in other words, your better class of Englishman. These convicts stayed and endured Australia. Some of them eventually were freed and the odd one or two made it back to England where they reported great beaches, good surf, terrific weather and the local food delicacy, the barbecue. This lead to some free working and middle class immigrants coming to Australia.

They came, stayed, enjoyed the surf and barbies as well as the weather and eventually some of them returned to merry olde 19th century England and said how nice the weather was in Australia. This brought some of the Upper Crust from Berkshire to Oz.

They came, stayed and saw it was good.

Unfortunately, they had not really got around to inventing International cricket at this time, so they were bored. There was no recreation for them. They therefore decided to bring some foxes to Australia so they could hunt – sort of moving the Berkshire Hunt down under (or up over depending on your perspective).

“But wait” cried one of the upper crusts, “what will out poor foxes eat?”

“Bring rabbits” said another, that way they’ll leave the chickens alone.

So they brought rabbits and foxes to Australia, those of the Berkshire Hunt (called Berks for short). These were duly released into the wilds of New South Wales. They bred. When sufficient foxes were available in the wilds of Parramatta, the Hunt got under way. Unfortunately the Berks discovered that you could not ride willy-nilly over the Australian landscape without serious injury as you collided with mishappen trees, got tangled in the underbrush, fell off your horse as it died from snakebite underneath you or watched the dogs being beaten up by annoyed kangaroos.

The Hunt failed.

“Bugger”, they cried and looked to the new entertainment of mapping the Outback. In the meantime, they also discovered that the foxes were happier eating the native wildlife than they were trying to catch rabbits. Er, they also enjoyed the chickens. The rabbits, of course, were ecstatic, as there was plenty of other food for the foxes. So we have foxes and rabbits aplenty in Oz.

Time passed.

Australians discovered that the English Berks had managed to successfully damage Australia’s ecology. “We can’t have that” was the cry, and “we can do better than that” was also heard.

There is a beetle that lives on the sugar cane in the north of Australia. “Let’s bring a frog in to eat that beetle” said the Aussies. Not being able to find a frog, they settled on a toad.

So they brought the cane toad to Australia. The cane toad, of course, did not eat the cane beetle. It ate everything else smaller than itself. Of course, it was complicated further by being poisonous itself so anything larger than itself dies at it tries to eat it. It loves to breed and is spreading across the continent, faster than the rabbits could.

Success! The Australians proved that when it came to buggering up their ecology they could even do that better than the English had! Hmm, maybe the foxes will eat the toads 🙂