The Cane Toad is listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) as being a threat to the survival, abundance, or evolutionary development of native species in Australia due to their rapid spread and negative impact on native wildlife.
By Jemma Boisen & Jayde Baguley
The Australian Government is increasing efforts to control the cane toad population and reduce the impact on native wildlife in parts of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Northern areas of New South Wales by funding research into how the biodiversity impacts of the cane toad can be better managed.
Efforts to eradicate them include the management of government controlled lands, a cane toad advisory group, and community action such as Toad Day Out.
Land Protection Officer for the Townsville Council, Luke Playford, said that Toad Day Out aims to control feral animals to look after native wildlife and to focus on the toad because it is an urban animal and easy to catch.
“For people at home we recommend people catch them, put them in a plastic bag and put them in the fridge for a day and put them in the freezer. That puts them to sleep,” Mr Playford said.
Another method for humanely disposing of toads is the use of an RSPCA approved product spray HopStop which causes the toad to become unconscious and die.
Between 2008 and 2010 the Government provided over $3 million to develop a national cane toad plan and fund research and development for sustainable control measures.
The Government’s current plan, the Stop the Toad Foundation (STTF), has built a mesh fence that is designed to keep cane toads out of an area but allow other native animals to pass through in native parks.
The STTF states, “It (the fences) will be monitored for the next few years to determine its success and the biodiversity inside and outside the fence once toads arrive.”
The fences are cost effective, easy to build and offer a practical solution to limiting the spread of toads from the more arid areas of Australia.
In addition to these fences, City councils in Cairns, Townsville, and many other areas organize annual Toad Day Out events, where locals humanely capture toads and give them to the council.
They run competitions to see who can catch the heaviest toad and have cane toad races.
Through funding events such as the Toad Day Out, the public is encouraged to be proactive in the removal of cane toads from the environment.
The growing cane toad population is threatening native wildlife, particularly the lives of native frogs.
Female cane toads can lay anywhere from 8,000-30,000 eggs at any time, significantly more than native frogs who can only lay 1,000-2,000 eggs a year.
Some people may also mistake small frogs for cane toads due to similar characteristics like colour and skin texture.
“We [Toad Day Out] don’t accept toads smaller than 50 millimetres in length so there is no chance of catching native frogs,” Mr Playford said.
A 2004 study showed that cane toads had a significant impact on the nesting habits of rainbow bee-eaters, destroying one third of their ground nests and eating their eggs and young.
According to National Geographic, in 1935 around 3,000 cane toads were released into sugarcane fields to reduce the cane beetle populations.
This was unsuccessful and since 1935 the cane toad population is estimated to have risen into the millions.
Check out this website for more information on cane toads and how you can help.