There are many ways to step into a new year. You can decide to make small but meaningful changes, or commit to a whole life thesis. Or, if you’re a poisonous and libidinous cane toad, you could jump onto a huge python and snake away from 2018 in style.
After torrential rainfall in Kununurra, a town in northern Australia, resident Andrew Mock captured an image of 10 cane toads aboard a 3.5 meter (11.5 feet) python named Monty as it moved toward higher ground. As the Guardian put it, the photo has prompted “horror, amazement, and jokes about the outback Uber.”
Jodi Rowley, curator of Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology at the Australian Museum, pointed out on Twitter that the toads weren’t just trying to hitch a ride; they were also attempting to mate with the python. And serpents aren’t the only unusual objects of desire for cane toads—Rowley has seen one trying to procreate with a rotting mango before.
It’s a good thing that Monty didn’t try and attack his excited passengers, because cane toads are extremely poisonous. According to Animal Research, the toad excretes a fluid known as bufotoxin when it is threatened, which contains the chemical bufotenin, classified as a class-1 drug under Australian law alongside heroin. If ingested, the venomous amphibians can be fatal.
The cane toad’s toxicity is one of the main reasons why it’s considered a dangerous pest in Australia. Introduced in the 1930s to combat the cane beetle population, which was damaging sugar cane crops, the toads failed to eliminate the beetles but reproduced well into the millions instead. Since then, cane toads have depleted native fauna, threatened many snake species, and continue to poison pets and predators even after the toads are dead.
As a result, the government encourages community groups aimed at eradicating the species, and Australian researchers are also conducting genetic research to understand how to eliminate the toads better. Mildly toxic sausages made of cane toad meat have even been airdropped around the country as part of a taste aversion program to prevent native predators from trying to eat amphibian.
“I thought it was fascinating that some of the local reptiles have gotten used to [the cane toads] and not eating them,” Paul Mock, Andrew Mock’s brother on whose property Monty the python usually traverses, told the Guardian. Maybe Monty will get used to being a ride-share service too.