From: Reuters
Published December 27, 2006 12:00 AM

Australia's Military Asked to Battle Cane Toads

CANBERRA — Environmentalists have asked Australia's military to wage war on cane toads, which have spread across the country's north in near-plague proportions.


The toads, introduced in a batch of 101 from Hawaii in 1935 in a failed bid to control native cane beetles, have spread 3,000 km (1,900 miles) from northeast Queensland to Darwin in Australia's tropical north. There are now more than 200 million.


"We need as many people on the ground as we can possibly get, and if the military can work out strategies for controlling toads on their ground, well that's fine with us," Frog Watch spokesman Ian Morris told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio on Wednesday.


Cane toads are one of Australia's worst environmental mistakes, ranking alongside the catastrophic introduction of rabbits.


The spread of the toads, whose skin is poisonous, has led to dramatic declines in populations of native snakes, goanna lizards and quolls. A quoll is a cat-sized marsupial.


Killing the hardy toads with anything from golf clubs to air rifles has become a northern Australian pastime, and their carcasses are turned into comic tourist ornaments and fertiliser.


Graham Sawyer of Frog Watch, a pressure group that cares for frogs but battles the invading toads, has organised "Toad Busts" among Darwin residents, who catch the animals with traps and plastic bags in a bid to slow their steady march westwards.


"It's still early enough. We're not going to stop every single cane toad from getting in to Darwin, but what we'll do is get rid of them all as they arrive, and stop that build-up of toads," Sawyer said.


Since their introduction cane toads have evolved bigger legs to help them move faster, expanding their territory westward by around 40 km (25 miles) a year.


A Northern Territory lawmaker called in 2005 for a legislated national attack on cane toads, but withdrew the demand in the face of criticism from animal rights groups.


Source: Reuters


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