The KTB field coordinator Lee Scott-Virtue is leading another team of volunteers to VRD this weekend, in the hope that they can mop up the toads remaining in Larry’s Dam estimated to be around 50,000 toads.
Reports from station owners and workers who monitor station fences, dams and bores, and from aboriginal communities, the DEC and KTB volunteers confirm that there were no cane toads on VRD (or Auvergne) stations until this year. Lee says,
“The collective wisdom about how cane toads breed and move may need reviewing. If an area free of cane toads can be infested by so many cane toads so quickly, the number of eggs and tadpoles that survive (they lay up to 30,000 eggs at a time) may be much higher than previously thought, when the cane toad is infesting a new area. We measure, weigh, and record the gender and place found of each cane toad we catch. On VRD we are seeing a few old mature breeding toads with thousands of younger cane toads. Our experience at the Victoria River Roadhouse combined with the precipitate infestation of Auvergne and now VRD this year makes me think that old mature breeding toads move forward to colonise an area and that if we get these breeders early before they breed, we are much more likely to be successful in both keeping the toads at bay and in stopping the new laying of tens of thousands of eggs”.
It was recognised very early in the KTB field campaign that toads were using two corridors of entry to reach both the Victoria River and the creek and river systems located to the east of the Commonwealth owned military base Bradshaw Station. Confirmed reports indicated toads reached the Victoria River Road House and Bradshaw Station in 2004. Twelve months of established breeding, a prolonged wet season and Cyclone Ingrid enabled toads to move south onto Auvergne (across the Victoria River) from Bradshaw Station and west along the flooded, (at this time of the year mainly freshwater) Victoria River. Agriculture WA, the first WA government agency to work on the impending cane toad invasion of WA, established in 2005 that the cane toad front was then still east of the Victoria River. On this information the KTB’s (and DEC/ CALM) based their campaign at the Victoria River Roadhouse and started busting between there and Auvergne Station (west of Timber Creek). There were no cane toads on Auvergne until March 2006.
Roy and Teresa who own and manage the Victoria River Roadhouse and camping ground say that, the constant and regular toadbusting by the KTBs have seen a reduction in cane toads since the KTBs started busting, and the regular busting has had a major impact on the breeding population numbers at the Roadhouse. Lee says, “…that the managers of Coolibah Station and Bluey’s Crocodile Farm located further west along the Victoria River confirm that this is also the case where the KTBs have also been toadbusting for the past year”.
This upcoming wet season may see the cane toad front SEND the cane toads dangerously close to the head waters of the Ord River and Lake Argyle catchment if VRD is not cleared of toads.
Lee and co-KTBcampaigners, Sarah Brett and Dean Goodgame say that,
“It is just as well that the KTB’s monitored, learned, recorded, reported, and relentlessly busted toads for 13 months including through the wet season (a first in 71 years!). It is also just as well that the KTB Dry Season Field Strategy has been adaptive and questioning. The cane toads now massing on Victoria River Down Station are closer to the Ord catchment than those at Timber Creek and Auvergne station (where toadbusting is nevertheless still important), and accordingly pose the more present and imminent danger to WA. The volunteers who, every week face 40 degree humid heat, snakes, helicopter sized mosquitoes and dangerous feral pigs with very big tusks to undertake the backbreaking mud wrestling work in the dark, 450 kms from home, are heroes.”