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Video clip synopsis – This humorous program takes a close look at Australia’s Cane Toad pest problem.
Year of production - 1987
Duration - 4min 43sec
Tags - DIY Doco, documentary genre, environment, media production, representations, see all tags


Cane Toads

How to Download the Video Clip

To download a free copy of this Video Clip choose from the options below. These require the free Quicktime Player.

download clip icon Premium MP4 canetoads_pr.mp4 (34.8MB).

ipod icon Broadband MP4 canetoads_bb.mp4 (16.4MB), suitable for iPods and computer downloads.

Additional help.

About the Video Clip


This video clip is an excerpt from the film Cane Toads – An Unnatural History, produced in 1987.

This off beat and entertaining documentary presents not just the biological information but the surprising range of people’s attitudes to these grotesque creatures, including keeping them as pets.

A Film Australia Production

Curriculum Focus



Students read and view texts that entertain, move, parody, investigate, analyse, argue and persuade. These texts may include documentaries that contain accessible but challenging issues that deal with local, national and international events. They explore personal, social, cultural and political issues of significance to the students’ own lives.

Students understand that readers and viewers may need to develop knowledge about particular events, issues and contexts to interpret texts.


When students write information or argument texts, they make appropriate selections of information from a few sources and attempt to synthesise and organise these in a logical way.

Students write imaginative texts in print and electronic mediums that contain personal, social and cultural ideas and issues related to their own lives and communities and their views of the expanding world.

These are extracts only. For further information, please see The National Curriculum Statements for English.

Background Information


The Bufo marinus Cane Toad was imported from Hawaii in 1935 to save Queensland’s sugar crop from destruction by the grey-back beetle. It failed because the beetle could fly and the cane toad could not. However, the Cane Toad stayed and became a pest of plague proportions and part of local culture and mythology.

The introduced species of Cane Toads continue to be an environmental problem in Australia. They now occupy more than 500,000 square kilometers of Australia and have reached densities of 2,000 toads per hectare in some areas of the Northern Territory.

In the film a wild life research officer, an animal ecologist, a shire councillor, an associate professor of biology, a wildlife ranger and local residents talk about the Cane Toad.

Cane Toads – An Unnatural History was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Short Film, won an AFI award and, until recently held the Australian box office record for documentary.

Classroom Activities

  1. Comic documentary style
    Mark Lewis, the filmmaker, uses many of the classic conventions of documentary filmmaking – interview, talking heads, dramatic re-creations, natural-history-style shots, stills and text – but executes them with such a unique twist that the outcome is far from conventional. The result is that his film is quirky and often funny.
    View the video clip to find examples of the following techniques and describe how the filmmaker uses them to achieve humour:
    1. filming from animal’s eyeline
    2. extreme close up shots
    3. music
    4. interview
    5. talking head (someone talking to camera)
  2. Interview the filmmaker
    Write a script for a 2-minute radio interview with Mark Lewis about Cane Toads – An Unnatural History that reveals his filmmaking style and how he made a humorous documentary with a serious message. You need to discuss five different film techniques used by Lewis.
  3. ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’
    The story of the Cane Toad is a fascinating one. Write a 350-word article for ‘Believe it or not’ magazine explaining the story of the Cane Toad in Australia. Remember to include:
    1. an attention-grabbing headline
    2. the problem the farmers had with the grey-back beetle
    3. how the Sugar experiment station came up with the Cane Toad solution
    4. the disastrous result of the introduction of the Cane Toad to Australia
    5. facts about the Cane Toad
    6. a photograph or drawing
    7. add a 50-word update on the present situation of the Cane Toad by doing some research.

Your research could include finding out:

  • the current number of Cane Toads
  • where they have invaded
  • current government policy about getting rid of the Cane Toads.

Further Resources


Go to DIY DOCO website

Current Australian government action about Cane Toads

For information about Mark Lewis, see the article Uncommon Documentary by Rebecca Albeck in Metro Magazine Issue 156, pg68 – 71
also available in the DIY DOCO Virtual Library