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Publications archive - Biodiversity


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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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

Executive Summary

This document is a review of the federally funded project 'The Development of a Cane Toad Biological Control' Commonwealth ID 29495. Terms of reference for the review are to assess: 1) methodology and effectiveness of the project in achieving objectives set to date; 2) the likelihood of the project achieving objectives proposed for the next twelve months and three years; 3) matters that may impact on the potential of the project to meet its overall aim of developing an effective, self disseminating viral vector to disrupt the development of cane toads in a manner that will reduce the threat of cane toads on the survival of native Australian fauna; and 4) the administration of financial planning and project management.

Overall, objectives set to date have been achieved in a timely and efficient fashion with minimal disruptions. There have been some minor difficulties in establishing a captive colony of cane toads and this issue requires ongoing assessment. Excellent progress has been made with respect to identifying genes capable of blocking cane toad metamorphosis. The likelihood of achieving proposed one and three year objectives during the next stage of the project is considered high. However, a more comprehensive plan for testing native species is required to ensure the viral vector has been weakened successfully and that the genes selected to block cane toad metamorphosis are specific to this species. It is anticipated that several of the objectives will continue beyond the three-year timeframe.

Several issues impact on the potential for this project to meet its overall objective of producing an effective, self-disseminating viral vector to disrupt the development of cane toads. In particular, the paucity of information on the proposed ranavirus viral vector needs to be addressed. In addition, the risk of the released virus escaping to countries with native cane toads must be assessed. If the team is unable to address these issues, which are central to developing a successful biological control, this must be made clear. Environment Australia should assess the implications of these gaps in achieving the overall aim.

The generation of a fully tested biological control is a long-term solution to the cane toad problem. There is a need for Environment Australia to consider other avenues for addressing the problem in the short to medium term.


The panel contributing to this report recommends the following:

  1. The project should proceed for 3 years subject to the considerations raised in this review.
  2. EA should investigate and execute complimentary research activities outlined in this review.
  3. EA should establish processes to consult with relevant stakeholders on the project's progress, Cane Toad control issues, complimentary research, communication and research coordination. For example a biannual workshop coordinated by EA to discuss Cane Toad research and future directions.