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Cane toad invasion can be stopped

18/12/2012 16:48:23

This cane toad was found in a shed - evidence that the toads continue to spread across Australia, threatening local wildlife. Credit Kimberley Toad Busters

Artificial water bodies aiding spread of cane toads
December 2012. It may be possible to stop the spread of can toads into new areas of Australia according to new research. One of the lead authors of the study, James Cook University's Dr Ben Phillips, said that their work, which involved an international team of scientists, showed that artificial water bodies installed by graziers acted as critical stepping-stones for the toad invasion.

"By removing these water bodies in key locations it is possible to halt the spread of toads," he said.

Cane toads spreading into The Kimberley
Cane toads are currently spreading into the vast Kimberley region of north-western Australia and will likely completely occupy this region within ten years.

10-30,000 eggs produced by 1 female toad
Dr Phillips said "This conquest has not gone unchallenged, but massive efforts by community groups over the past five years have done nothing to stop or even slow the invasion of toads. The reason for this failure is that toads produce 10-30 thousand eggs at a time and can move very large distances, so removing enough individuals to slow their invasion is effectively an impossible task."

Removing artificial water bodies could save an area the size of Great Britain
Dr Phillips said that "by removing around 100 artificial water bodies, toads can be prevented from occupying 268,000 square kilometres of their potential range in Western Australia, which is an area larger than Great Britain".

Australian wildlife is not used to toxic cane toads, and many rare species have been Endangered by eating cane toads. Photo courtesy of Kimberley Toad Busters.

Australian wildlife is not used to toxic cane toads, and many rare species have been Endangered by eating cane toads. Photo courtesy of Kimberley Toad Busters.

Protecting Quolls & other wildlife
Stopping the invasion of toads into Australia's Pilbara region would protect numerous species, including northern Quolls (an endangered cat-sized marsupial carnivore) and many species of goannas and snakes, which are badly affected when toads invade.

Dr Phillips added "While we have shown that it is possible to stop toads, actually doing so is going to require a lot of community support as well as serious financial compensation to any graziers that are affected by modifications to their stock watering system. We have shown that stopping toads is possible, but the exact details of how to implement our plan are still to be worked out."

Cane toads, one of the world's worst invasive species, have proved difficult to stop. In Australia, where they were introduced in 1935, they have spread to occupy more than 1.3 million square kilometres and have had major impacts on many native species. Their spread continues across northern Australia at an accelerating rate.

The research was published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

Cane toads

These incredibly toxic creatures are spreading relentlessly across Australia, although still limited to the northern parts. Heaven help the rest of the country if climate change results in them moving further south as that will mean doom for countless more small mammals and reptiles unwise enough to consider the toad might make a good meal. Like the rabbits and foxes humans in their (un)wisdom introduced to the country, toads have caused environmental havoc.

Posted by: Anne Layton-Bennett | 28 Dec 2012 03:11:16

cane toads

i have a sister living in queensland and she tells me that people are ordered to kill cane toads. ? it cant come easy to most people just to smash a living creature with a brick or a shovel. and not lets forget that this disaster is yet another outcome of mankinds interference into the natural world. left in thier own environment these animals would doubtless have thier predators ? or a way to control thier numbers. most animals dont produce unless there is a food source

Posted by: dee donworth | 27 Dec 2012 15:46:25

They Were Everywhere!

I will never forget, when I went on a night expedition through the Atherton Tablelands of Queensland. I got out of the truck, and on the gravel road were cane toads the size of the palm of my hand. They were so thick, that they were pressed up against each other. I saw them hop, and when they did the just landed on top of another cane toad. I had heard how cane toads have become a pest in Australia, but did not realize how massive their numbers really were. If the invasion can be stopped, I personal will be thrilled. Because they are more of a threatening invasive species, than the rabbits or foxes are.

Posted by: Tim Upham | 22 Dec 2012 04:51:17

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