Breakthrough in war against cane toads
THEY are one of the world's most invasive pests and have caused widespread problems since arriving in north Queensland, but researchers may have finally found a way to stop the spread of cane toads.James Cook University's Ben Phillips is one of a team of researchers who discovered man-made water points, such as bores and dams, acted as critical "stepping stones" for the ongoing toad invasion.
In a study published this week, scientists found artificial water bodies installed for livestock grazing produced a perfect breeding habitat for toads.
"By removing these water bodies in key locations, it is possible to halt the spread of toads," Dr Phillips said.
Communities across Australia have fought losing battles against the toads, which can produce up to 30,000 eggs at a time and travel large distances.
Dr Phillips acknowledged it would be difficult for farmers to change their stock watering systems, but there were several options.
"One of the simplest ways would be to use troughs and tanks for cattle to access water from that toads can't get to," he said.
"We have shown that stopping toads is possible, but the exact details of how to implement our plan are still to be worked out."
The study focused on Western Australia's Pilbara region, but Dr Phillips said the research could be used in parts of Queensland where the cane toads were yet to invade.
"There is bound to be possibilities about reducing toad density and access to places, particularly in western Queensland," he said.
Dr Phillips said there was still work under way in tackling cane toad populations where they were entrenched, such as the Far North.
"There's still a lot of work going into trapping tadpoles and making water bodies less hospitable."
Since their introduction to north Queensland in 1935, cane toads have been steadily spreading throughout the rest of the country.
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Pest: Scientists believe better controlling agricultural watering points could help stop the cane toad march.