"Cane toad sausages" created to protect native Aussie species

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016/11/15 9:39:18

West Australians are being asked to collect as many cane toads as possible as part of a radical new plan to protect the state's native bird and animal species from the voracious reptile.

Scientists from Western Australia (WA) Parks and Wildlife are asking residents to collect the toads - dead or alive - so they can mince them to make cane toad sausages.

Corrin Everitt, leader of the State Cane Toad Initiative for WA Parks and Wildlife, said that the cane toad sausages would be fed to the species most at risk from the toads to create a "taste aversion" - meaning the foul taste of the toad causes them to want to avoid toads altogether.

"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," Everitt told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Tuesday.

"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."

WA has remained largely unaffected by the cane-toad invasion which has devastated Queensland's wildlife, but the toad is moving west at a rate of 40 to 60 kilometers per year.

Richard Shine, a biologist at the University of Sydney who helped develop the taste aversion project, said that native species were most vulnerable to the first toads they encountered.

"Within a few months of cane toads arriving in an area, we get something like 95 per cent of the big goannas are dead, and similar numbers for the quolls, blue-tongue lizards and in some areas freshwater crocodiles," Shine told the ABC.

"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 national park in northern WA) is a very big space, but if we can create pockets where the native predators survive, then they can colonize surrounding areas after the toad front moves through."

Researchers from the University of Melbourne are working to implement a waterless barrier on the eastern border of WA to prevent the toads, which are heavily reliant on plentiful water, from spreading in WA.

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