Cane toad CIA holds line against southern march
AUSTRALIA may be losing the war against cane toads, but one conservation group is winning the battle in the fight against southern migration of the invasive species.
The Lower Clarence region is considered the southern frontier of cane toads, and its own version of the CIA is engaged in direct combat - Clarence Valley Climate in Action (CVCIA) Landcare. .
The toad busters have convinced doubting scientists that there is a role for manual control methods in the battle against the spread of cane toads.
The founder of CVCIA, Sharon Lehman, said over the last 10 years toad researcher Dr Rick Shine had been been amazed at how the efforts in the Clarence Valley had been able to hold the southern line of toad advance.
"We've worked closely with Rick Shine (Professor of Biology at Sydney University)," Ms Lehman said.
"When they first got into contact with us they said manual control would not work.
"Now they're basically stunned at what we've achieved and have got three PhD students working on what we've done here."
One of the impacts they've discovered was the cane toads' effect on beehives.
"Through the studies we've found cane toads like to sit at the bottom of honey bee hives and gorge themselves on whatever bees they come in contact with.
"These studies have allowed us to find out exactly where cane toads have had an impact."
Ms Lehman said educating people to identify toad tadpoles and spawn, plus improved trapping devices had taken manual control methods to a new level.
"Researchers look at the Clarence River as the southern line of the advance of the cane toads," she said.
"We're holding the line while the research is being done to find effective biological controls."
She said more funding like the recent $300,000 to Clarence Valley Landcare to fight cane toads would also help.
"That will allow them to employ a project officer and make bigger inroads into the toad population," she said.
"We've got two contractors, Russell Jago and Marty Swain and that extra money should allow the employment of a third contractor."
Ms Lehman also paid tribute to CVCIA volunteer Scott Lenton for his tireless work building teams of volunteers who were out most Friday nights catching toads.
"Scott has also contributed massively to what the researchers know about cane toad. All the toads we catch are aged and sexed and this information is passed onto the NPWS and university."
Ms Lehman said climate change was another factor in the battle.
"We used to have a good break between March and October," she said.
"Now we keep going to June and we really only have a break to give the volunteers a rest."
Anyone interested in controling the cane toad pest in the Lower Clarence should contact CVCIA Landcare on its Facebook page or Scott Lenton via email email@example.com.