Saturday, 16 March 2013

Chinese eat Oz cane toads!

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia.

Millions of highly venomous cane toads are invading northern Australia, killing countless small native and domestic animals. Men and dogs hate them.
Cane toads would never win a beauty contest.  In fact, they’re hideous.
John Burey, of Charleville, Queensland,  sends vast numbers of the pests to China, where they are eaten or their toxin is used as a traditional  medicine.
We asked John if he had ever tasted a cane toad, and how they’re caught.
He replied, “I’ve eaten quite a few of them in China, where they’re kept in captivity and feed on worms. To catch them, just walk around in the evening with a torch and gloves.”

An Australian website, All About Dogs, says:

"Toads exude a milky white toxin from poison glands behind their eyes. They squeeze this poison onto the surface of their skin when they are under threat. Toads do not spit or squirt the poison as commonly believed, and they don’t bite. Dogs and cats are poisoned when they mouth the toad or sometimes when the toad’s poison gets into their eyes.

"The toad’s poison is also dangerous to humans and deaths have occurred. Some adults have even been affected when they absorbed the poison through cuts in their skin after handling a toad.

"In China, they have used toad poison as an expectorant, a heart stimulant and as a diuretic. It has also been used as a remedy for toothache and sinusitis. In Africa and South America, toad venom has been used on the tips of arrows as a poison.

"Dogs may be poisoned by oral exposure to many types of toads. All toads produce venom but toxicity varies greatly by species.

"The most important species of concern in the United States is the giant or marine toad Bufo marinus, ( a.k.a. bufo toad ) an introduced species that has established itself in Hawaii, Florida and Texas.

"Local effects include shaking of the head, pawing at the mouth, retching and frothy salivation. Severe intoxication as from the Bufo toad may include life threatening cardiac and CNS involvement.

"Toads were introduced into Australia in 1935 to control the cane beetle - a disastrous move, as toads have no natural enemies in Australia.

"Australian Terriers and Fox Terriers also think this was a dumb idea, as they are the breeds most often affected by toad poisoning.

"The Cane Toad is Australia's only true toad, it grows to a massive 24cm and can lay up to 40,000 eggs in one season. Most native tadpoles cannot live in the same water as the poisonous Cane Toad tadpoles. Each female cane toad lays up to 40,000 eggs a month, and half that number can expect to develop into tadpoles within three days.    

"The largest cane toad on record in Australia was 16.5 cm wide, 24cm in length and weighed 1.36kg.!

An article on The Australian Museum (Sydney) website says:

No humans have died in Australia from cane toad poison but overseas, people have died after eating toads and even soup made from boiled toad eggs.

Cane toads are also poisonous to pets and in Hawaii up to 50 dogs a year have died after mouthing cane toads. Signs of poisoning through ingestion include profuse salivation, twitching, vomiting, shallow breathing, and collapse of the hind limbs. Death may occur by cardiac arrest within 15 minutes.

Australian native fauna that have been killed by eating or mouthing cane toads include goannas, freshwater crocodile, tiger snake, red-bellied black snake, death adder, dingo and western quoll

A cane toad responds to threat by turning side-on so its parotoid glands are directed towards the attacker. The poison usually oozes out of the glands, but toads can squirt a fine spray for a short distance if they are handled roughly.

The poison is absorbed through mucous membranes such as eyes, mouth and nose, and in humans may cause intense pain, temporary blindness and inflammation.

First aid treatment includes irrigating (washing with a lot of water) the eyes, mouth and nose if they have been exposed to toad poison.

 Seek medical attention if symptoms persist. When handling any frog or toad, protect the eyes, wear gloves, and thoroughly wash hands before and after touching the animal.

The cane toad has mounted a successful invasion in Australia and many other countries - but where did the toad come from originally? These toads have a wide native range in Central America and South America. Studies on DNA characteristics of Aussie toads suggest that they descend from a group of toads originally collected from South America (perhaps French Guyana).

These were taken to Puerto Rico, then toads from that island were taken to Hawaii – and finally, 101 Hawaiian toads were brought to Australia to form the beginnings of the invasion.

A message from Hilbilly NC on an American online forum says,
"Most toads have poison glands in their skin, some have pretty potent toxins. I've heard of Cherokee cleaning toads by holding them under swift running water, twisting their heads off and skinning them while keeping them under the current. I think I'd have to be pretty damn hungry to try it, though.      
I really like frog legs."

Hopping mad:
 Cane toads in Oz :

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Strange name of Cuban newspaper: GRANMA

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia.>


The Patria Grande will never forget Chávez
was the heading of the lead story of the online edition of the strangely-named Cuban newspaper GRANMA the other day.
“ PREMIERS and political leaders from a number of countries expressed their sorrow at the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, with messages of condolences for his family and the people of the Bolivarian Republic.”
Every Cuban knows Granma. It's the nation's leading daily newspaper. How did a Spanish-language newspaper acquire that ludicrous English language title? It took  a long time and many emails in both Spanish and English to discover the details.
Granma was the name of the 60-foot (18 metre) motor yacht in which Fidel Castro and his men sailed from Mexico to Cuba in 1956 to start the revolution.
Castro had been exiled to Mexico. where he joined forces with Che Guevara, a young Argentine doctor who had abandoned his profession and native land in an ill-fated bid to help the world's poor. Castro bought the yacht Granma from a Texan (who had named it after his grandmother).
With a small group of supporters, Castro and Guevara crossed the Caribbean in the decrepit and leaking boat, vowing to invade Cuba and overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista.
"On December 2, 1956, the Granma cabin cruiser arrived on the eastern coast of Cuba, at Los Cayuelos, two kilometers from Las Coloradas beach," Granma International recalled in 2001, on the 45th anniversary of the landing. "It had left from Tuxpan, in the Mexican state of Veracruz, on November 25, with 82 men aboard, commanded by Fidel Castro. The purpose of the voyage was to return to Cuba and initiate the war for the island's definite independence."
Landing in a hostile swamp, in a province now also named Granma, losing most of their party, the survivors fought their way to the Sierra Maestra, a mountain range in south-east Cuba. Two years later, after a guerrilla campaign in which Guevara was named comandante, the insurgents entered Havana and launched the first and only successful socialist revolution in the Americas.
Granma newspaper was established in 1965 by the merger of two major publications: Hoy (Spanish: for Today), the organ of the Communist Party of Cuba, and Revolucion, the daily newspaper of Castro's 26th of July movement.
Granma's website (*2) offers an impressive list of news stories in Spanish, and a link to Granma Internacional (*3),  which deserves an award as one of the world's most comprehensive multi-lingual sites. The newspaper's weekly edition offers an  array of news stories, facts, figures, politics and economy in Spanish, English, French, Portuguese and German.
Granma has its critics on the Internet.  A report (in German) from "independent journalists in Cuba" says the paper is "the Party Gazette which is distributed throughout the country and which is the only and worst Gazette in the Republic. The page-long speeches of the Great Leader are also useful for toilet paper." (It's next to impossible to find a front page without at least one picture of Fidel Castro or his brother, Raúl Castro, plus reports of their activities and speeches).
What happened to the historic yacht named Granma? It rests behind thick layers of glass outside the Museum of the Revolution in Havana. You can see a picture of the yacht, kindly made available by David Mericle (*4).
A Cuban Government website says that one of Havana's tourist attractions is the Museum of the Revolution and Granma Memorial, adding, in halting English: "In the exterior areas it is the Memorial Yate Granma, where is exhibited, protected by an inmense (sic) glass case, the ship used by Fidel Castro and over 80 combatants in the return to Cuba from the exile in Mexico."
Boat Granma in Havana museum:
Boris  Becker praises Cuban cigars:

Friday, 1 March 2013

Tragic death of an Eggheads winner

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia,

A dark cloud has cast a shadow over my favourite quiz show, BBC-2’s Eggheads.  We in Australia watch it daily at 5pm on ABC-1, but we see it more than a year after it’s broadcast in Britain.


“A pub quiz champion who appeared on the popular general knowledge show Eggheads has killed himself – less than 48 hours after the episode was aired on TV”, Suzannah Hills reported in the London Daily Mail on January 20, 2012.


“Council worker Max Thomson, 49, and his teammates successfully defeated the Eggheads on the daily BBC show, winning £5,000.


“The episode was aired on Monday night, but two days later he jumped from a multi-storey car park at Ocean Terminal in Edinburgh.”


His friend, Mr. Pendreich, said, “Max came to my house with his mum and sister to watch Eggheads and was his usual cheery self. It was the first time I had seen the show, and I had never seen him so happy as he was at the end, when he hugged David, one of the other guys in the team.


“Quizzes were Max’s passion. He was well known on the quiz circuit in north Edinburgh  because he was good and because he got on with everyone. We were shocked and devastated to hear the news.”



Eggheads is a BBC quiz show created by 12 Yard Productions, first broadcast in 2003, and co-presented by Dermot Murnaghan and Jeremy Vine. For the 2008 series, Jeremy Vine was brought in to present on nights when Murnaghan was hosting the spinoff series Are You an Egghead?. This happened again from October 2009 while Murnaghan presented the second series of the spinoff show.[1] Since the spin-off show finished, Jeremy Vine has continued to host the second half of each series, which broadcasts 52 weeks a year. The show pits a team of five 'Eggheads' (made up from seven[2] highly regarded quiz and game show champions, rotating each episode) against a series of teams of five 'challengers' who in each episode attempt to beat the Eggheads through a series of rounds. It is normally shown weekdays every week.


Daphne Fowler (née Bradshaw, also formerly known as Daphne Hudson, now 74, was born in Warwick, Warwickshire, England, is an English retired bank secretary and game show champion who currently resides in Weston-super-Mare.[1] Since taking early retirement, she has taken part in many televised game shows. She has won many titles, including winning Fifteen to One (twice), Going for Gold and Brain of Britain. She is currently taking part in the game show Eggheads, where she is one of the team of seven game show champions challenged daily by a new quiz team. Daphne has been described as "Britain's best known female quiz cotestant".[2]

Arnold Keppel, 8th Earl of Albemarle (Daphne’s great-grandfather)Walter, 9th Earl of Albemarle (grandfather) Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (second cousin once removed)

Judith Cynthia Aline Keppel (born 18 August 1942) [1] was the first one million-pound winner on the television game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in the United Kingdom.

Alice Keppel (born October 14, 1869, died November 22, 1947) was the most famous of the mistresses of King Edward VII. She was the great-grandmother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.


Pat Gibson (born 19 July 1961 Galway, Ireland) is an Irish quiz player. He is a multiple world champion in quizzing and one of the world's most successful quiz players. He is best known for winning several quiz shows and being a panellist on Eggheads. He was born and educated in Ireland but has lived in the United Kingdom for many years.


Christopher John Hughes (born 14 August 1947, in Enfield, Middlesex , U.K) is one of Britain's leading quizzers. Hughes was educated at Enfield Grammar School and is a retired train driver and railway worker. He has been a winner of Mastermind (1983), International Mastermind (1983), and Brain of Britain, 2005.[1] He is one of only five people ever to have won both Mastermind and Brain of Britain.[2]

He also appeared on The Weakest Link and was voted out in the final elimination round without answering one question incorrectly during the whole show, unique in that he was the only contestant in the gameshow's 13 series history to achieve such a feat.[citation needed]

He currently competes alongside other quiz champions on the UK quiz show Eggheads, in which members of the public pit their wits against them in order to win a cash prize.[3]

As of 2010, he lived in Crewe, Cheshire.[4]

Connagh-Joseph "CJ" de Mooi (pronounced [də moːi̯]; born Joseph Connagh, 6 November 1969, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England[1]), is a professional quizzer[clarification needed] and until August 2012, was the youngest panellist on the BBC television show Eggheads. Born Joseph Connagh, he adopted the surname de Mooi when modelling; which he translates as Dutch for "the Handsome man", though a more literal translation would be "the beautiful". In December 2011 de Mooi announced he had left Eggheads permanently in order to pursue an acting career;[2] he appeared in broadcast episodes until August 2012, and was replaced on the show by Dave Rainford

You can watch a recent show here:

You can watch another recent show by clicking on

Hand in a bushy tail to enter Fox Lotto!

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia.

Anyone handing in a foxtail to an office in Dubbo, New South Wales, during March will be entered for a cash prize in a Fox Lotto run by the  Livestock Health and and Pest Authority. Alternatively you may buy a poison bait to enter the contest.

Foxes attack poultry and native wildlife in many parts of Australia, despite landholders’ attempts to poison or trap them (thus validating the phrase “cunning as a fox”). 

 One Dubbo woman was so intent on winning a prize in the Lotto competition that she pulled up her car outside the LHPA office, opened the boot, and dragged out a whole fox carcass.

 “Exotic foxes pose a serious conservation problem in Australia”, says an article in Wikipedia. '”Current estimates indicate there are more than 7.2 million red fox (Vulpes vulpes) with a range extending throughout most of the continental mainland.

 “The species became established in Australia through successive introductions by settlers in the 1830s.  Due to its rapid spread and ecological impact, it has been classified as one of the most damaging invasive species in Australia.”



Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Let's see Macca's mob on TV

From ERIC SHACKLE in Sydney, Australia

Can the ABC switch its  popular Sunday morning radio show Australia All Over to television?   It would be an even bigger drawcard than it is already.
Ian (Macca) Macnamara is a city slicker (he was born in the Sydney suburb of Oatley).   For the last 30 years he has visited countless cities, villages and other remote places, with his guitar (he was one of Col Joye’s original Joy Boys), with a microphone linked to the ABC.
He interviews hundreds of rural folk. There’s too much chatter about the weather, but there‘s also a mixed diet of compelling human interest: nostalgia,  funny stories, bush poems, recipes... the lot.

Here's how the ABC  tells the story:

Ian began at the ABC over 30 years ago as a trainee reporter in  regional radio. Here's how it all happened, in Macca's own words...

Being a reporter is a wonderful way to get job satisfaction. You talk to different people every day and get to travel all over Australia  which ultimately became my life.

I suppose the travelling started much  earlier
when I was a musician. You often had to travel to get work, a  bit like a shearer or a contract harvester.

I joined Col Joye's backing band, the Joy Boys, in the early 70s and  spent  a year travelling with them, which looking back was a great  experience.

Colin and his brothers have remained firm friends since  then.
I was also at that time studying (if I could ever be accused of that)
Economics at Sydney University, which was another great experience.

David Hill, former Managing Director of the ABC was one of my tutors,  and it was a time of great social change and upheaval in Australia and  I look back fondly on that time.

How I became a reporter and thence a "D.J." is another one of lifes  quirks I suppose. I'd majored in Industrial Relations and after I  joined the ABC as a clerk in the Finance department, I noticed a sign  saying Industrial Relations Department.

 So I fronted up and was given a job, again as a clerk. My passion as  they say was however radio. I wanted to get involved. I didn't exactly  know doing what. But I took every opportunity to do courses in Radio  production etc, so that when the opportunity came I could grab it with  both hands.

As I said earlier it's a great job being a reporter which is really what I am - 'reporting' what's going on around the place..

What has also been invaluable is a knowledge and love of music. I grew  up listning to music in our house not because my father was a musician  (which he was) but because he was obsessed with sound and we had a huge stereo/hifi for which he bought a new album each week.

So I heardeverything from My Fair Lady, Muggsy Spanier, Tchaikovsky, Okalahoma,  Jack Teagarden etc and I became hooked on songs and melody and I've  never stopped.

My ABC life has involved lots of different things which has kept life
nteresting and keeps me motivated.

Lots of different radio programmes, magazine style and current affairs - and TV programmes like A Big Country.

 And my Sunday Morning show has become the focus of my life really,  not only because I enjoy revealing some of the characters of Australia  but also because I have made so many wonderful friends.

My mum used to say after reading my mail for not a few years how wonderful the listeners were.

And that's the real privilege. Being taken into the confidence of  so many wonderful Australians then meeting them at outside broadcasts  or a concert.It truly is for me, and I know my producer Lee Kelly, an experience we cherish.

Our purpose on air on Sunday morning is to share this with everybody  and hopefully spread a little joy, and a little Aussie spirit and  humour.

I  better stop but I hope to meet you sometime at an 'OB' or a concert or whatever.

Talk to you Sunday.

Born in Sydney, Ian graduated from Sydney University with an economics degree, but left the city to become a jackeroo.

His career then took a major turn when he joined Col Joye and the Joye Boys as a singer/guitarist, and Ian still manages to perform occasionally and is also a songwriter and producer.

Ian first joined the ABC in 1974, in the Industrial Relations department but moved to the Rural Department two years later as a Rural Reporter.

He then spent 12 months in television, working on A Big Country and Countrywide, before returning to Rural Radio in 1980 as a reporter and eventually, presenter of Australia All Over.

In 1984, Ian was appointed Executive Producer of the current affairs program

City Extra (a 2BL current affairs show), but late in 1985 he returned to the Regional Radio Unit as Executive Producer of programs including Morning Extra, Australia All Over, and Resources.

Ian loves speaking with Australians from all walks of life and relishes the chance to travel the country with Australia All OveThe program is an eclectic mix of music, poetry, anecdotes, book readings and talkback, all deliverin Macca's trademark, off-the-cuff style.
Every Sunday morning, some two-million listeners from every corner of Australia tune in for their weekly dose of Australia.

Visit the Australia All Over website.LISTEN LIVE: If you have Real Player or Windows Media Player you can listen to Australia All on Sundays from 0530 -

1000 AEST. LISTEN ON DEMAND: Listen to the last week's program in Real or Windows Media format.
You can listen to last week’s show here:
It’s hot in Brisbane, but cool-n-gatta:

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Flying foxes drove me batty!

 From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia.

Living in Sydney’s leafy North Shore suburb of Gordon 40 years ago, I used to enjoy sprawling in a deckchair on summer evenings, watching thousands of giant flying foxes flying low overhead.  They were probably returning to their home in the city’s Royal Botanic Gardens.
Those flying foxes are the world’s largest bats, with wingspans about 1.5 metres (six feet) across. Known as grey-headed flying foxes, they are found only in Australia, mostly in rain forests from Ingham in Queensland to Adelaide in South Australia.
Many of those fascinating creatures that I watched had youngsters almost as large as their mothers clinging to them.
Writing of the Botanic Gardens reminds me that a few years ago the Gardens management had to scare them away from the area, as the bats had formed such a large colony that they were killing the trees they were clinging to.

A colony of flying foxes residing on the Macintyre River, behind the sporting complex at Inverell was the cause of this outage as well as a number of others in the area over recent weeks. The good news is the flying foxes eventually move on



Monday, 14 January 2013

Donkeys guard sheep from predators

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia.

More and more farmers in Australia and North America are using  donkeys to protect their livestock against predators.  In Australia, the villains are dingoes, wild dogs and foxes, which attack sheep, calves and poultry. In America, coyotes, aka the American jackal,  brush wolf, or prairie wolf, are the farmers’ enemy.


Ironically, coyotes are protected in 12 US states,  and hunting is regulated in most of North America.


“Darling Downs grazier Bruce McLeish and his wife Angela turned to ‘guard donkeys’ after losing 300 sheep worth $110,000, to wild dogs in 2007” says a story on an  ABC website.


“As well as shooting, trapping and baiting the dogs, the McLeishes – who run 4500 sheep on Warahgai, near Karara, in the traprock country west of Warwick – got the donkey idea after hearing about a Toowoomba woman who ran free-range poultry with a donkey and found a fox which had been kicked to death.”


“The latest weapon in the war against wild dogs is not bullets or bait, but  floppy ears and a deafening call,” Karen Hunt wrote  in an ABC website four years ago.


“Guard donkeys are being used successfully in southern Queensland to guard sheep against attack from rapidly increasing numbers of wild dogs. In some cases losses from dog attacks have been so severe station owners have been forced to sell all their remaining sheep and switch to cattle.


“Warwick station owner Bruce McLeish says he discovered guard donkeys were commonly used in the US for protecting livestock, but it was the hardiness of the animals which finally persuaded him to try them out. ‘The donkeys eat the same as sheep, are easy on fences, and if you’re in harder country like we are, you don’t have to do anything with their hooves, and they naturally live in the desert.


‘’’The donkey is a very inquisitive animal; and they naturally live in the desert so they are very hardy, even in our droughts.’


“Although donkeys were initially hard to source, once released with the sheep, Mr McLeish says their natural instincts took over.


“’The couple we’ve got are bonded with sheep. If anything goes into the paddock, they go out to the edge of the mob.  If it’s something like a dog they will actually  chase after them, trying to bite and kick them.’”


Graziers in Australia, the US, and western Canada  have successfully used donkeys as guard animals. The Ontario Predator Study  reported that about 70% of the donkeys used were either excellent or good at protecting sheep from wolves, coyotes and dogs.