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Publications archive - Biodiversity

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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Review of the Project: The Development of a Cane Toad Biological Control (February 2003)

D. Hazell, R. Nott and M. F. Shannon
Department of the Environment and Heritage, August 2003


Background to the Project

Since their introduction in 1935, Cane Toads have spread rapidly across northern Australia. Current estimates (CSIRO , 2002) indicate the toads are spreading at around 27km/year and now extend from northern NSW into the Northern Territory. The toads now threaten many world heritage areas including Kakadu National Park.

Cane Toads mainly affect native species through:

According to CSIRO (2002), Cane Toads may also spread diseases that could be responsible for declines in Australian frog populations.

During the 1990s, CSIRO further developed its significant expertise in the biological control of pest species in Australia. Their work on genetic manipulation of viruses to interrupt animal development was seen as a potential alternative to traditional pest management such as baiting, trapping and hunting.

At the same time, cultural pressures were pushing pest management from its traditional predation emphasis to more "humane" methods such as reproductive control. Apart from this cultural change, rapid advances in gene technology at the end of the 1990s provided major opportunities for biological controls using attenuated viruses.

This project builds on earlier (1990-1993) work where researchers embarked on a $1.25M project to find Cane Toad pathogens in Venezuela. The project also included ecological studies in Venezuela and Australia.

From 1993-1997, a second, $2.0M Cane Toad study completed the ecological work in Venezuela and continued a more intensive investigation of possible viruses useful as a biological control.

In early 2000, Senator Robert Hill, the then Minister for the Environment and Heritage, lent his support to biological pest controls for Cane Toads. Despite the previous studies' limited success, CSIRO and Minister Hill agreed that further work should proceed. CSIRO outlined an estimated budget at around $1M per year over 5-7 years. The Minister subsequently offered $500,000 per year over 2 years. This report reviews the success of the latest 2-year research project.