New funding for cane toad research in NSW to help save threatened species

Cane toad sausages will be on the menu for threatened native species as part of a $75,000 grant to Professor Rick Shine of the University of Sydney from the NSW Government to help develop practical responses to the cane toad invasion.

Cane toad (Rhinella marinus), previously Bufo marinus, invasive pest

The grant of $50,000 from the Saving our Species Program with $25,000 provided by the Department of Primary Industry's Biosecurity and Food Safety program will build on successful work from the Northern territory teaching native species to avoid eating cane toads.

Professor Shine said the research involves giving low-dose toad-flesh sausages to native carnivores, such as Spotted-tail Quolls, which has been proven in others areas of Australia to teach them that cane toads are poisonous, and should be avoided.

"Cane toads are fatal to large predators, causing up to 95% mortality when toads first arrive in an area," Professor Shine said.

"Field studies show that aversion training can help predators to survive the onslaught of toads to a new area.

"The research is based on observations that if a predator encountered a small cane toad, it becomes ill and avoids toads thereafter and thus, is relatively unaffected by the invasion.

"If the first toad it encounters and eats is a large one however, the predator dies before it can learn and in some species pass that knowledge on to their young.

"It is a simple idea and approach but it has already proven successful in helping quolls in tropical Australia survive the invasion of cane toads even after a single episode of training."

"The University is trialling a range of techniques for managing cane toads, including the toad-flesh sausages, in the field at or just before the time that the toad invasion arrives in an area," Professor Shine said.

Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Executive Director Ian Hunter said cane toads are a significant threat in northern Australia and applying the lessons learnt to NSW was a valuable exercise.

"Cane toads currently occur in NSW from the Clarence Valley north and outside this area there have only been two major incursions, Port Macquarie and Taren Point in Sydney, both of which have been successfully managed by the local Councils and OEH," Mr Hunter said.

"Within their existing range cane toads are continuing to spread into areas of conservation significance and affect a range of wildlife.

"Professor Shine's three-year project will help provide more information to better to manage the risk of future incursions and the potential impacts that would have on threatened species.

"The funding would also help develop a NSW response consistent with the national approach, and to undertake a more complete analysis of risk areas."

Mr Hunter said it was part of the $100 million Saving our Species program which sets out the NSW Government's threatened species management plan and what needs to be done to secure the State's threatened species in the wild for the next 100 years.