For two weeks stretching across March and April, 70 children set out armed with torches, buckets and gloves in a bid to fetch the highest number of toads and take out the top title of the 2nd Annual Bulman Toad Muster.
Encompassing educational, environmental and community engagement goals, the rules of the muster are simple – every single toad must be delivered alive and complete. One of the main objectives of the toad muster is to teach the children of the need to destroy the toads humanely in the hope that this behaviour will then be transferred to other animals.
After much excitement and enthusiasm building in the community leading up to the muster, the first night saw 52 community members come out in the hunt for the notorious cane toad, collecting an impressive 264 toads.
The second night, hosted at the Weemol Community, saw another great turn out of in excess of 60 competitors and a total of 244 toads captured.
By the third night the teams of toad muster competitors had reached over 70 people, with local parents taking a greater part in the participation and encouragement of their children. With the success of the previous weeks muster, a total of only 169 toads were able to mustered, with community members searching far and wide for this result.
Overall, 677 toads were collected - a sensational effort for such a small community!
The end of the muster was marked with a community BBQ hosted by the local Police members during which the scores were tallied up and the winners announced. The winners were divided into three age categories of 0-11, 12-18, 18+. Special mention goes to a 16-year-old girl who not only won the 12-18 category but also mustered the most toads in the competition – 59 in total. The BBQ was followed by a Community disco hosted by the Roper Gulf Shire.
A two-year-old boy took out the 'Most enthusiastic toad musterer" prize after he managed to collect nine toads. And due to the competitiveness of some of the competitors, a new award was created for the "Most Consistent Toad Musterer" – the most honest musterer who wasn't stockpiling toads out of competition hours.
The Bulman toad muster couldn’t happen without the help of volunteers, parents and the local Police members Constable Lance O’Connor, Constable Luke Lamb and A/Sergeant Leighton Arnott and Roper Gulf Shire Sports and Recreation Officer, Lisa Jelenic, who each night attended and gave up their time to carry buckets, keep score, help count the toads and most importantly keep the children safe. A big thank you goes to the Roper Gulf Shire and the Remote Policing Command (NT Police) who donated prizes and supplies which made this community engagement exercise possible and ensured its success.
The Bulman Toad Muster was initiated in early 2011by Bulman Police members attached to Operation THEMIS. Due to a short wet season, and the gusto in which the Community has approached these musters, the toad population within the two communities has been dramatically reduced from approximately 1100 toads mustered last year, to 677 this year. This is a fantastic result for the community and the ecosystem.