1: Table of endangered and species loss
||Impact of Cane Toads
||Location in NT
100% loss of animals
Mitchells, Mertens ,
90% loss of animals
No recovery since 2003
Frilled Neck Lizard
Not well understood, up to
77% loss of animals
Up to 100% loss of
|Adam and Erin
100% loss of animals
Dramatic reduction in
number and types of
Brown Snake, Death
Adder and other
Up to 90% loss of animals,
some research suggests
recovery of some species
Rainbow Bee Eater
30% loss of breeding
In tropical floodplain
ecosystems, cane toads
consume more than 4
times amount of insects
than native frogs
Cane toads significantly
deplete insect food
2: Cane toad busting update – Just where are the toads in WA?
By Ben Scott-Virtue
Toadbusting is unlike any occupation I know out there. Given it is so unique, it has it own conundrums, its own highs and its own lows. With the
toad advancing with this late bit of weather it is the 'low' as field coordinator that I am experiencing. I had hoped that we would be able to keep 'all'
toads out of Kununurra for at least this 'dry'. Obviously this has not been the case with some twenty four toads being picked up in and around the
outskirts of Kununurra. Whilst it certainly is disheartening it is important to realise that these are the 'explorer' toads and NOT the frontline. They
certainly are the precursor for the 'colonising' wave, but I still feel confident with such enthusiasm and commitment shown by community members
in Kununurra that we will enjoy another dry without too many toads dogging the front lawn.
A 'Brief' on toad movement...
To give a brief update on where toads are, I'll start with the 'Northern Corridor'.
This specifically relates to Legune Station and the toads moving in a South Westerly direction towards Kununurra. At this stage I can confirm that
toads are at 'Sorbys' and are rife through to the mouth of Keep River. I would assume that they are in Milligin's lagoon system but with my last effort
at access 'bogging' down prior to 'Martins Gap' just two nights ago, it'll be at least another week or so till the area dries out enough for the quad
bikes. Last week reconnaissance confirmed cane toads 10 km west of Point Springs Conservation Reserve. This is perhaps the most worrying of all
the fronts with access into certain area hampered still by water and muddy blacksoil plains. It has been noted that toads have moved at least 65 km
over this 'wet'.
In the 'Eastern corridor' or 'Newry corridor' toads have moved Westward roughly 15 to 20 km. I am assuming this is because of the vast
effort the community has put in to breaking up the colonising front. At present this 'wave' of toads has reached Golden Gate road with the last
couple of 'busts' hauling in a touch under three hundred adult individuals. Most worrying is that we now have hard evidence that breeding has taken
place somewhere along the Northern foreshore of Lake Argyle. There are two other corridors that are moving in from the East. The first is flowing
through Matilda and Hicks creek into the Eastern shores of Argyle, the second in through to Rosewood, via Faradays and Gum Tree Creek
spreading to the South to Waterloo Station. Toads have also for the first time been picked up from Stockade Creek but have yet to make their way to
the Lakes edge.
Our „Southern corridor' has moved by far the most with an estimated distance of some 65 km covered by the toad. This is the front coming
in from Gregory National Park to 'Soda Creek' and into 'Black Gin Creek'. They have well and truly hit Limbunya Station with the last toad picked up
only 15km from the Buntine Highway on the Limbunya track. To the East of Limbunya there is a series of yards about 30km from the homestead
that have (well, had...)a large population of toads, this only puts the toad about 70km as the crow flies to Nicholson. Toads are well and truly
established within Kalkaringi and are rampant in the 'Vic'. It will not be long before the toads move into Inverway and Bunda Stations flowing down
'Sturt Creek' into Lake Gregory. I am assuming that the reason the toads have moved so quickly down this Southern Corridor is because there has
been limited toad busting activity in this region due to other areas taking priority.
3: KTB caution Kununurra residents about cane toad fencing
in rural and semi-rural
Kimberley Toad Busters is concerned about miss-information in advice to residents to install ‘toad fences’ around their backyards in Kununurra. The two major reasons to justify a toad fence are to protect wildlife in backyards and protect pets. This is not the case.
Fences to protect wildlife from cane toads are suitable in some circumstances, eg a Wildlife Park. However, a cane toad fence around a backyard or semi-rural block unfortunately does more harm than good.
Our wildlife require areas larger than a single backyard or rural-block to fulfil their most basic requirements, like food resources and finding a mate. Many animals move around a network of backyards. Results from the Kimberley Toad Busters ‘What’s in Your Backyard?’ program show backyards in Kununurra form a unique ecosystem. The animals present in each yard change throughout the year. During the wet season build-up rural backyards become important refuge areas for many native species. Unfortunately a backyard or semi-rural block is simply not big enough to sustain many animals on its own.
Meat ants devouring a blind snake caught at a cane toad fence in the NT.
With a toad fence many of the smaller species are unable to continue to move around as they would naturally, these include the Northern Blue
Tongue Lizard, small Dragon Lizards, Snakes, Frogs and small marsupials (Plannigale species have been recently found in a Kununurra
backyard!). This is supported by the results of radio-tracking of a range of animals including Olive Pythons, Gonnas and Northern Blue Tongues,
completed by DEC Kununurra. Many of these animals are unable to use the ‘wildlife gates,’ there have been some terrible examples of ‘by-catch,’
or death of native animals due to toad fences in the NT.
Many people will be concerned about their pets and cane toads. Cats are not known to attack toads, Feral cats have been observed eating cane
toads only when there is no other food. Dogs can often grab toads, Many quickly learn toads are to be left alone. Dr. Joanna Manson, provided
information on cane toads and dogs at the Caring for the Kimberley Environmental Forum. From her experience the majority of dogs learn to leave
cane toads alone and can even be trained to detect them in the yard. In most cases a fence is not required.
Symptoms of cane toad poisoning for dogs: Look for frothing or pawing at the mouth, red gums, fast heart rate, retching, vomiting, stumbling
and fitting. This can be followed by death.
Treatment of cane toad poisoning: Hose mouth with water, point hose forward, hold head down, wipe gums with sponge, if fitting wet and fan dog
to keep it cool, CALL THE VET, TAKE DOG TO THE VET.
Kimberley Vet Centre, Kununurra, 08 9169 1229
Ways to CONTROL CANE TOADS in your BACKYARD
Hand collection once or twice a week has been shown to reduce cane toads in the immediate area and doing this on an ongoing basis will allow
other wildlife to flourish or make a come-back in backyards:
A resident of Townsville, Qld, removed toads from his backyard by busting once a week and has seen other frogs move in to take their
place. This would not be possible if a toad proof fence had been installed.
. A resident in Humpty Doo, NT, regularly collected cane toads every couple of days when they first arrived and removed any sign of
breeding. His place is still toad free despite having a large wetland and he still enjoys seeing wildlife. Effort when toads first arrive will
pay off, you can control cane toads in your backyard.
. After five years, Kimberley Toad Busters have found hand collection of cane toads and eradicating cane toad eggs, tadpoles and
metamorphs has reduced cane toad numbers and slowed their rate of movement towards the Kimberley. Toadbusting appears to also be
contributing to increased rates of the Lungworm Parasite in cane toads, this parasite kills up to 30% of juvenile cane toads.
Some easy ways of making your property unfriendly to cane toads
1. Limit water sources. Lift water bowls off the ground, ponds should have steep sides with no recess.
2. Limit food sources. Keep outside light use to a minimum as toads are attracted by the insects.
3. Look for adult cane toads once or twice a week. Toads are most active at night and can often be heard
calling. During the day toads can be found in moist places like garden debris, under matting, logs and
4. Look for Cane Toad tadpoles and metamorph breeding during the day. Tadpoles can be netted.
Metamorphs can be sucked up with a vacuum cleaners or a leaf blower using suction rather than
Without community action cane toad rates of up to 2,000 per hectare are expected in the Kimberley.
Final Word on Fences
If a cane toad fence is installed nightly monitoring is required. Shade cloth fences are not permanent, and often left in disrepair by our larger species
of wildlife, eg Goannas. However the main reason for nightly monitoring is ensuring death of native animals, by-catch, is kept to a minimum. Cane
toad fences used in the NT have recorded by-catch each night, especially frogs. By-catch is produced even with ‘wildlife gates.
A fence around a dam will not remove toads from an area as they can rehydrate using any moisture, eg it has been observed that toads will sit on
fresh cow pats. It is more effective to collect the toads attracted to the dam to rehydrate and remove any signs of cane toad breeding. In the past,
fencing of turkey nests has given groups a false sense of security of eliminating or controlling of toads. Within 7 days of a fence being removed,
toads will re-inhabit the area (personal observations by KTB volunteers).
Unfortunately, the East Kimberley environment is not well suited to cane toad fencing. The current fire regime and high flow of watercourses during
the wet-season prevent effective use of resources if used on fencing. Any large scale fencing program would have considerable ongoing
maintenance cost. Fencing has been trialled at Gregory Tree, NT, and was found to be a spectacular failure, mostly due to lack of monitoring and
Please contact KTB for further information and if you require assistance with removing toads or any evidence of breeding on 91682576 or
4: Cane Toad &
organised by Kimberley Toad
The Cane Toad and Environmental forum, held 19th-21st March 2010 in Kununurra, was a sequel to the Cane Toad Forum held in March 2005,
organised by Kimberley Specialists in Research. It was after this original forum and learning about the impacts of cane toads on the
biodiversity of Northern Australia, the community decided to form
Kimberley Toad Busters. Five years on isolated cane toads have begun to arrive in Kununurra, the most eastern township of the Kimberley, since
late January 2010. Now was the time for scientists, government and community to come together to discuss latest research and management
actions for cane toads in Northern Australia.
The community decided to include a holistic assessment of the threats to biodiversity in the Kimberley, and in addition to cane toads include
speakers on fire, indigenous culture and community empowerment.
Over 60 different speakers were approached across Australia, an
overwhelmingly positive response was received. Many speakers, if they were not able to attend directly, provided video presentations or
The forum consisted of 51 different speakers providing presentations on following seven major themes: Biodiversity Impact of Cane Toads; Cane
Toad Control; Cane Toad Funding & Research; Community Cane Toad Information and Control; Empowering Community; Fire Management and
Biodiversity Impact; and Indigenous Culture. Abstracts for each presentation are available in the forum handbook. Conference papers are currently
being prepared by presenters for publication as grey literature.
More than 400 people attended the forum over the three days, including school children, teachers, government representatives from a range of
departments, tourism operator and local business, general public, politicians, radio, television and print media and invited guests and speakers.
Additional displays were provided at the forum venue by Kimberley Toad Busters, Kimberley Wildlife Rescue and Department of Conservation and
Overwhelmingly the greatest aspect of the forum was the opportunity for community, government and scientists to interact and communicate. With
such unprecedented community involvement in an environmental issue there is excellent scope for scientists to collect a large amount of data in
relatively short periods of time to inform understanding of cane toad movement and impacts, this resource has yet to be utilised. The immediate key
outcomes of this improved communication are:
|| Impact of control on cane toad movement
Mapping of the cane toad front line by Kimberley Toad Busters has begun to show clear differences in the rate of movement in areas
where the community has been active. Ben Phillips (Australian Wildlife Conservancy) is completing analysis of cane toad control effort
and rate of movement of the cane toad front line. Kimberley Toad Busters will provide data and assist in interpretation, unfortunately data
exists in a huge variety of forms and requires consolidation and summary before use by Ben. Steps involved to enable Kimberley Toad
Busters full contribution (now and for future):
1) send out a data/observation sheet to all scientists for comment,
2) set up database and
3) enter all data
4) contribute to model development and analysis.
||Impact of Lungworm parasite
Much interest has been registered by scientists in the presentation and latest results delivered by Jordy Groffen, a KTB sponsored
research student. These results indicate the lungworm parasite has caught the main colonising front, however is yet to catch the toads
travelling ahead of the main colonising front, the ‘explorer toads.’ Ben
Phillips (Australian Wildlife Conservancy) has expressed interest in
working with Jordy in analysis of impact of Lungworm and Community
Control in the cane toad front line.
||Dead animal observations
Kimberley Toad Busters has an extensive record of dead animals
observed when conducting toadbusts over the last 5 years. Sean Doody
(Monash University) will provide methodology for the community to
record dead animals in the Kimberley and analyse results from the past
||Community wildlife survey: Icon Species
New simplified methodology developed for community biodiversity
monitoring program focusing on ICON species that are expected to
suffer significant population declines with the arrival of cane toads. This
data will provide scientists with probability of detection, proportion of sites occupied by ICON species and changes in populations
overtime. Kimberley Toad Busters is able to incorporate this survey program as part of the already successful ‘What’s in Your Backyard?’
community survey project and community education program. ICON species include Monitors, Northern Quoll, Rainbow Bee Eaters,
Frilled-Neck Lizards and Northern Blue-tongue Lizard.
||Euthanasia methods for cane toads
After 76 years of occupation there is still no method, supported by Government, that can be used by community groups for euthanasia of
large numbers of cane toads, methods suitable for euthanasia of cane toad adults, metamorphs and tadpoles are required. Mike Tyler
(University of Adelaide) and Geoff Dandie (ANZCAART) have guidance and alternative euthanasia techniques.
||Cane Toad Threat Abatement Plan
A number of researchers and community members disagreed with the conclusions and recommendations of the recently released Cane
Toad Threat Abatement Plan, presented at the Forum by Tony Peacock. These will be addressed through submissions to the Australian
Government as part as the public consultation process.
To celebrate the biodiversity of the Kimberley and raise awareness of threats two competitions were run in conjunction with the Forum.
1) Kimberley Toad Busters ‘What’s in Your Backyard?’ Wildlife Photographic competition.
The standard of entries was brilliant, and created a striking display on one wall of forum venue. With over 140 entries the competition
was an excellent reminder of why so many scientists, government representatives and community members had gathered to learn
and discuss impacts of cane toads and fire on Kimberley wildlife.
2) Environmental Threats to the Kimberley - Visual Art Competition hosted by Lovell Gallery.
Over 40 original paintings were entered in the visual art completion. The exhibition was held in the room adjacent to the forum, a
huge success and enjoyed by everyone.
Two school competitions were also organised, Pecha Kucha and Static Display, however insufficient time at the start of the school term prevented
Empowering Community Day: Sunday 21st March 2010
Sunday 21st of March was organised as a Family Day. This included wildlife displays, reptile handling and childrens activities. Assistance in
organisation for this day and activities was provided by Kimberley Wildlife Rescue.
The Forum was extremely well supported by the Kununurra community, from the standard of meals, service and accommodation for Forum
speakers to the level of attendance and participation in discussions.
5: Abstracts of KTB sponsored research programs
The movement of the lungworm parasite in the cane toad frontline
Wageningen University, Vrijheidsweg 91, 2033CG Haarlem, The Netherlands.
Research has shown that under laboratory conditions, infection with the lungworm parasite, Rhabdias Pseudosphaerocephala, reduces survival,
growth rates, locomotor capacity, and feeding rates of metamorph cane toads, Chaunus [Bufo] marinus. Even if the cane toads are infected with a
single parasite, this can have an impact when the cane toad is stressed. Migration of the lungworm parasite is shown after 3 periods of sample
collection (March 2008, March 2009 and January 2010). In 2008, the parasite frontline was still behind the cane toad frontline, in 2009 the parasite
frontline was found in the back of the cane toad frontline and in 2010 the parasite frontline is almost in the front of the cane toad frontline. The
parasite densities in the cane toad population are building up rapidly as well. The closer the cane toads are to the westerly invading frontline, the
lower the incidence and intensity of the parasite in the cane toad is. If you go more further east behind the parasite frontline, the densities and
intensities are higher, and building up quicker.
If you were to put high density infected cane toads with a healthy cane toad population at the frontline, you could accelerate the whole process of
infecting frontline cane toads. Lungworm parasites have a declining effect on cane toad population and could be used to decrease the number of
cane toads in Australia.
The impact of the cane toad on the small reptile fauna of the Kimberley region
Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.
This study is a Masters project conducted through Macquarie University Sydney, with the assistance of Kimberley Specialists and the Kimberley
Toad Busters volunteer group. The project aimed to determine the impacts Bufo marinus may have on the small reptile fauna of the Kimberley
region, focusing on the Western Australian border region and the frontline of toad migration. Using a presence/absence study design of trapping
and sampling, a species composition and abundance investigation was undertaken in areas inhabited by toads, and similar habitats where toads
had not yet reached. Species diversity was found to significantly decrease with the presence of toads, along the edges of permanent water where
toads congregate. Furthermore three species of skink, Ctenotus inornatus, Carlia munda and Carlia amax increased dramatically in abundance in
these areas, indicating resilience to the presence of toads, or a reaction to the decline in less common species. Gut contents of Cane Toads from a
sample of various habitats were analysed in order to infer what composition of prey items were being consumed. A strong correlation between
habitat type and composition was found, with large disparities between pastoral land and natural vegetation. This has implications for the
importance of competition with small reptiles, and the pressure placed on the vital population of dung beetles in cattle-grazing landholdings. Finally,
observations of larger reptile species such as pythons and Keelback snakes indicate rapid changes to behaviour, clearly illustrating the disruptive
effect of the Cane Toad on other faunal groups.
The results of this study will help understand the interactions and impacts this invasive species will have on the reptile communities found in the
Kimberley region. In conjunction with the research into the impacts of the Cane Toad, trapping and visual observations of various localities within
the region were underway to further understand the seasonal variations, distributions and species inventories of remote ecosystems within the
A place in science for community biodiversity survey
Kimberley Toad Busters, Kununurra, WA, Australia.
Quantitative knowledge of the wider impacts of cane toads on wildlife populations and trophic structure due to resource competition and change in
predator prey relationships is relatively unknown. Knowledge does exist for the impact of cane toads for some key predators, however factors
including time lag and the high variability of habitats in northern Australia, has prevented quantification of indirect impacts. This is instead largely left
to anecdotal and local observations. The ‘What’s in your Backyard?’ program educates community on wildlife, the known direct impacts of cane
toads and encourages community to participate in observational baseline survey to contribute to greater understanding of changes in wildlife
populations and the indirect impacts of cane toads.
The program has received excellent interest from schools, tourism operators, Ranger groups and the general public during the first months of
operation. Survey programs suitable for interest groups are developed with a focus on frequency of survey and correct identification of species.
Results to date include discovery of species outside their previously known ranges and persistence of species in cane toad areas. There is
significant interest from the community in providing information for science to aid in conservation of biodiversity in the Kimberley. We are looking to
build strong relationships with science at the beginning of a long-term monitoring program across the Kimberley.
6: UP-date on the KTB “What.s in your Backyard?” program
Kimberley Toad Busters has added a sub-project to the “What’s in Your Backyard?’ Program called ICON species. After consultation with a number
of scientists as part of the Cane Toad and Environmental Forum, a method suitable for community to measure the impact of cane toads on key
species that will be particularly hard hit by Cane Toads was developed. The key part of the monitoring program is standardization of records. This is
achieved by each participant registering a location and species they would like to monitor. There are 16 set weeks for monitoring each year, each
participant is contacted prior to the monitoring week and at the end of each week for their results. The program is ongoing. The key results the
project will be of probability of detection, proportion of sites occupied by ICON species and changes in populations overtime.
The ‘What’s in Your Backyard?’ program is progressing well with over 50 sites recorded so far. Get to know the animals in your backyard, please
contact Kimberley Toad Busters for an electronic Biodiversity Kit. Each kit contains all the information to conduct an observational fauna survey in
your own backyard and well as over 500 identification cards for the animals of the Kimberley. Please send a photo of description of any animals you
are having difficulty identifying to Kimberley Toad Busters, we have not been beaten yet!
Do you have a Kimberley ICON in your Backyard?
||©Jeff and Sally Thomas
|These animals, as well as many others, will suffer serious declines in numbers within two years of cane toads arriving. Please help Kimberley Toad Busters and Scientists monitor this impact in the Kimberley by participating in the ICON species project.
Contact Kimberley Toad Busters and register a site that you regularly visit (backyard or camping spot) and see
one of the ICON species.
ICON species include all Goannas (we can help with identification of species), Frilled Neck Lizards, Northern Blue
Tongue Lizard, and any other favourite animal you have seen at a place that you visit at least four times a year
including Brown Bandicoots, Northern Quolls, Ghost Bats, Rainbow Bee Eaters to name of few!
||During four set times during the year Kimberley Toad Busters will contact you to collect data on how many times
you visited your site and seen the ICON species. Visiting the site and not seeing the species is just as important
for scientific data as visiting the site and seeing the species.
||Kimberley Toad Busters will publish results regularly as part of our newsletters and website. Data will be freely
available all groups!
Register NOW, firstname.lastname@example.org or 08 9168 2576
Part of the Kimberley Toad Busters ‘What’s in Your Backyard?’ Program
7: KTB hit schools through WA
During the first week of May Ben Scott-Virtue will be travelling to a number of schools in WA including Derby, Looma and Carmel College in Perth.
Children and teachers alike are keen to learn about cane toads in the Kimberley and what they can do to help. Many schools have requested
Kimberley Toad Busters to run an education visit each year. This year’s presentation by Ben includes:
|Introduction to Kimberley wildlife – why is the Kimberley important and threats to wildlife
.Cane toads: predicted spread in Australia, update on front line in Kimberley, cane toad and native frog identification
.Impact of cane toads: animals impacted and rates of decline
.Methods of cane toad control and current research projects – including the Lung Worm parasite
.What you can do:
||Get to know your native animals – help with Kimberley Toad Busters What’s in Your Backyard? project and record
Kimberley ICON species
||Toadbusting – Know what a cane toad looks like. Keep an eye out for cane toads in your area. Hitchhiking toads have
been already been found in Halls Creek, Port Headland, Sydney and Melbourne!
||Write a letter to the Prime minister, Federal Member and State Member of Parliament – people outside the Kimberley
need to understand how much we care for our wildlife, it will be a great tragedy if they are lost.
The presentation is highly entertaining, filled with sound and interesting facts on Kimberley biodiversity. Please contact Kimberley Toad Busters if
your school, class, workplace, church or community group would like a presentation! Kimberley Toad Busters is also preparing a teachers resource
on fun but important follow-up classroom activities.
If you find what you think is a cane toad call Kimberley Toad Busters 08 9168 2576. There
is a large network of people able to help identify and humanely dispose of the cane toad!
For more information on any of the articles contact:
Ruth Duncan: KTB Environmental Scientist 0400 767 650 / 08 9168 2576 email@example.com
Lee Scott-Virtue: KTB Founder & President 08 9168 7080 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben Scott-Virtue: KTB Field Co-ordinator 08 9168 2576 email@example.com
John Cugley: KTB Administration Co-ordinator 08 9168 2576 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Anne Winton: KTB Indigenous Coordinator 0488 693 642
All donations are tax deductible.