Residents in Western Australia’s north have been asked to collect as many cane toads as they can to be minced for a mass “toad sausage” delivery in the Kimberley.
It is part of a wide-scale roll-out of a taste aversion conservation program for native animals that has been successfully trialled in the Top End.
“The idea is that we feed toad sausages to animals like northern quolls, and their experience in eating that sausage causes vomiting and aversion to the taste of a toad, and the smell of the toad,” explains Corrin Everitt, who heads up the State Cane Toad Initiative for WA Parks and Wildlife
“The work that we have done so far is looking pretty effective … at the moment, it’s looking like between 50 and 70 per cent of the quolls that might be present in a population are taking the sausage and are learning to avoid toads.”
So the decision has been made to do a larger-scale distribution of the cane toad sausages along sections of the cane toad frontline.
To do so, the research team will need a lot of cane toads.
“We are asking the Kununurra community to collect as many cane toads as possible,” Ms Everitt said.
“If people would prefer to collect toads live and just drop them into our drop-off box, we can euthanase them here at the depot.
“Alternatively if people are confident to euthanase toads using the cooling and freezing method, then we can accept a bag of frozen toads as well.”
Up until now the toad sausages have been crafted by hand, in a process the scientists have described as “rather gory”.
Parks and Wildlife is in talks with a factory in WA’s South West to manufacture the sausages now the project has moved into mass production.
The aim of the sausage program is to buffer potentially endangered species from the first, most deadly wave of cane toads as they move into an area.
Professor Rick Shine of Sydney University, who helped develop the project, said the native species were most vulnerable from the first toads they encountered.
“So it’s really all about trying to get the sausages right in there at the front.
“We can’t do that across the entire landscape as the Kimberley a very big space, but if we can create pockets where the native predators survive then they can colonise surrounding areas after the toad front moves through.”
Cane toad sausages ‘not terribly pleasant’
And for those who may be curious about the smell and sight of a cane toad sausage, Professor Shine concedes it is not for everyone.
“It’s not something you’d like to spend the rest of your life doing, it’s not terribly pleasant, but it seems to be an incredibly effective way to save our endangered predators from the cane toad invasion,” he said.
“It’s exciting times. The toad invasion of Australia has been devastating. We do now have a simple method that we believe can massively reduce the impact of toads, and I’m just delighted to see the cooperation we’re getting from groups across the Kimberley to try to make this work.”
It is hoped enough cane toads will be collected in coming months for the sausage roll-out to start at the end of the northern wet season.
Read this article online at ABC News.