HOPPING MAD: Queensland cane toad.Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail
HOPPING MAD: Queensland cane toad.Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail Max Fleet BUN010216TOAD1

Put the golf clubs down: Newest way to cull the cane toad

CANNABALISTIC impulse has inspired a method to eradicate Queensland's most notorious pest.

Cane toads, the legacy of a failed attempt to eradicate the cane beetle, have plagued Queenslanders since they were introduced in 1935.

But the Rockhampton and Yeppoon communities could become part of a world-first attempt to cull the warty pests by repurposing a chemical released by eggs, which attracts tadpoles to eat them.

"Cane toad tadpoles from one hatching are attracted to and feed on unhatched eggs, and we can hijack this behaviour to specifically target and capture cane toad tadpoles,” University of Queensland's Institute of Molecular Bioscience Professor Rob Capon explained.

Prof Capon and his team collected the toxin from adult cane toads, coated it onto air stones for controlled release, and placed these inside traps in monitored water bodies.

Greening Australia has just received its first batch of baits, and is inviting locals to target public and private water bodies using the baits to trap cane toad tadpoles and capture adult cane toads.

The baits do not harm frogs and other native wildlife.

Can toad distribution across Australia.
Can toad distribution across Australia. Australian Government

During early field trials on the Adelaide River floodplain in 2012, the bait concept was tested in natural water bodies.

More than 42,000 cane toad tadpoles were caught in 48 hours. In the following two weeks, no juvenile toads emerged and the tadpole population was eradicated.

Professor Capon and his team have been testing their tadpole bait with the assistance of Moreton Bay Regional Council and local communities in Redlands and Bribie Island, and now they're extending this to Central Queensland.

Traps will be laid at public sites in Rockhampton, Yeppoon and Gladstone and community assistance is sought to help set and monitor traps and collect adult toads.

Landholders with a dam or creek are also invited to trap and catch cane toads to improve water quality and biodiversity on their patch.

A Central Queensland project launch will be held at the FLOW Visitors Centre on 80 East St, Rockhampton on Thursday, February 23 at 4pm.

Contact BreeAnna Wkyes on 0409 365 972, or Bethlea Bell on 4999 2835/0439 745 366.

A snake eating a cane toad, which can be deadly to snakes. Photo by Liam Golding, Invasive Animals CRC.
A snake eating a cane toad, which can be deadly to snakes. Photo by Liam Golding, Invasive Animals CRC. Liam Golding

CANE TOAD FACTS:

  • Adult female toads can lay up to 30,000 eggs at one time, swelling the estimated population in Australia to more than 1.5 billion.
  • Cane toads are native to South and Central America and are an extremely hardy animal and voracious predator of insects and other small prey.
  • These qualities led to their introduction into Australia as a means of controlling pest beetles in the sugar cane industry in 1935, before the use of agricultural chemicals became widespread.
  • The cane toad defends itself through poison and is poisonous, to varying degrees, during all its life stages; some birds and native predators have learned to avoid the poison glands, but the more vulnerable predators die rapidly.
  • Toads contain poisons that act on the heart and on the central nervous system. The poison is absorbed through body tissues such as those of the eyes, mouth and nose.

(Source environment.gov.au)



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