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Genetic “Backburning” Can Stop Cane Toads

Credit: Johan Larson/Adobe

While rabbits have tens of babies, cane toads have tens of thousands. Credit: Johan Larson/Adobe

By Ben Phillips

Could the cane toad’s march through the Kimberley be stopped in its tracks by introducing less-dispersive toads ahead of the invasion front?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

It’s been a long day. The sun set an hour or so back, and since then the only thing we’ve managed to drag from the car is the cask wine and three tin cups. We are sitting there, in the dark, in the dust among the saltbush, going over the highs and lows of the past 3 days. We will camp here, next to one of the 600-odd bores between Broome and Port Hedland, and tomorrow is going to be more of the same: driving the long distances necessary to meet the pastoralists and indigenous folk that call this part of the world home.

We want to know if we can stop the cane toad invasion here, where the Great Sandy Desert meets the coast. Reid Tingley, Darren Southwell and myself are here to talk with the locals and see the country in detail. Stopping the toad invasion is a bold idea, but is it feasible? So far, our observations have yielded a big “maybe”. We are a little despondent, but we are about to stumble on a fascinating new idea.

Cane toads were introduced into Australia in the 1930s. The 101 toads originally introduced around Gordonvale in northern Queensland have, in the past 80 years, become billions of toads. From their initial release site, toads have spread to occupy more than 1.5 million km2 of the Australian mainland.

Because they are highly toxic, they have had major impacts on native predators such as goannas, quolls and freshwater crocodiles. The...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.