Cane toad invaders hitch a ride

Left: the cane toad. Above: Vets Tony Leeflang and Ramesh Sivacolundhu.
Left: the cane toad. Above: Vets Tony Leeflang and Ramesh Sivacolundhu.

Balcatta Veterinary Hospital, Diagnostic Veterinary Imaging, Perth Veterinary Anaesthesia (Osborne Park) and Perth Veterinary Specialists have come together to support the efforts of Stop The Toad Foundation (STTF) in combating the introduced cane toad.

Ramesh Sivacolundhu, from Balcatta Veterinary Hospital, said Australia was slowly losing the battle to protect native wildlife against introduced species.

‘We have lost thousands of native goannas, snakes, quolls and freshwater crocodiles to the toads,’ Dr Sivacolundhu said.

Cane toads have spread across vast regions of northern Australia since they were released into Queensland in 1935, reaching the Western Australian border in February 2009 and are now 350km into the Kimberley. Mr Sivacolundhu said it may be years before the toad could reach Perth in significant numbers, but people should not be ignorant of the risk they pose.

‘If it does make it here, I want to be able to tell my kids that I at least tried to help stop it. For many people the toad problem is ‘out of sight, out of mind’; you can bet that will change if the toad gets here, and they are getting closer every year.’

Chair of STTF and recipient of the 2012 Australian Geographic Young Conservationist of the Year award Kim Hands said the group received support from the public.

‘The toads at the invasion front are becoming bigger, faster and more voracious with time,’ Ms Hands said.

‘Climate change is set to facilitate their southward invasion, potentially to Perth in the long term; Project Kimberley has been completely funded by philanthropists who want to help protect the area.

‘As most people would be aware, we have seen more and more toads arrive on trucks in Perth that have come from Kununurra or somewhere else with toads over the past few years.’

Department of Parks and Wildlife officer Teagan Johnston said the cane toad was extremely invasive and posed serious risk to Western Australia’s native animals after seven live toads were found recently in a freight truck from Kununurra.

‘There were male and female toads hidden within the plants and if they had escaped from the truck…’ Ms Johnston said.