September 6, 2005
Monty Python meets National Geographic in Documentary on Toads at MASS MoCA
(North Adams, Mass.)-- 'It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature' may be a widely known proverb but it's often forgotten. The results of one attempt at tinkering with nature are explored to hilarious effect in the film Cane Toads: An Unnatural History, showing at MASS MoCA on Thursday, October 6, at 8 pm. Often described as Monty Python meets National Geographic, the documentary examines the ecological disaster created when cane toads were first brought to Australia in the 1930s in an attempt to control a beetle infestation that threatened the country's sugar cane crops. The cane toads ate the beetles . . . and the sugar cane, and everything else. With an absence of any natural predators the initial population of 102 toads quickly exploded until they covered the whole northern half of the continent. The film balances scientific commentary with fervently held opinions by colorful Aussie farmers and observations of the toads' odd, often hysterical behavior.
Native to Hawaii, the cane toads had received rave reviews for their successful control of the pest population in the Caribbean Islands. A box was ordered for Australia and the toads were allowed to breed in captivity before being released. Unfortunately the honeymoon lasted a bit too long -- by the time the toads were released the beetles they were sent to control were past the larva stage and had migrated into the high stocks of the cane where the toads, not being very high jumpers, couldn't reach. Local farmers were forced to return to their usual chemical methods to control the beetles and never thought to round up the now-useless toads.
Each pair of toads lays from 33,000 to 60,000 eggs per spawning and they'll eat anything from dog food to mice to the food supplies of local endangered frogs. In turn, almost nothing can eat them. Their bodies are so toxic that snakes have been found dead with the un-swallowed toads still in their mouths and dogs regularly fall ill from drinking water the amphibians have bathed in.
Held in Club B-10, MASS MoCA's Cinema Lounge series focuses on timely documentaries about human/animal interaction in conjunction with MASS MoCA's exhibition Becoming Animal. Doors open at 7 PM for food and drink from Lickety Split before the screening. Club B-10 features comfortable couches and café tables as well as a full bar.
Tickets for Cane Toads: An Unnatural History are $6. MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount. Tickets are available in advance through the MASS MoCA Box Office located off Marshall Street in North Adams from 11 A.M. until 5 P.M. (closed Tuesdays). Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111.
MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall Street in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Katherine Myers
(413) 664-4481 x8113