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Leader of the Government in the Senate,
Minister for the Environment & Heritage, Senator Robert Hill

Monday 27 November 2000


Australian researchers will investigate a biological control to reduce the impact of cane toads on native wildlife under a $1 million Federal Government program announced today.

Environment Minister Robert Hill and CSIRO announced the research program to be funded through the Natural Heritage Trust's National Feral Animal Control Program.

CSIRO scientists will search for a gene that is critical to toad development and that can be "switched off".

"Through the Trust, the Commonwealth Government is committed to finding new ways of controlling introduced species such as the cane toad, which continues to represent a significant threat to many of Australia's native species," Senator Hill said.

"Conditions over the past year have made it possible for the toad to move beyond Queensland and New South Wales, and into the Northern Territory towards Kakadu National Park.

"The Government is supporting ongoing monitoring, assessments and educational programs aimed at controlling the cane toad but it is important to also continue searching for a scientific solution to the problem."

CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems scientist, Dr Lyn Hinds, said the Federal Government funding is a positive step in the fight to halt the cane toad's spread westwards across Australia.

"Once CSIRO has identified the gene, it can be used to arrest the toad's development. This may prevent the toad from reaching adulthood and maturing to the reproductive stage," said Dr Hinds.

"If the toads don't reach adulthood, they won't be able to reproduce."

Dr Alex Hyatt of CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory will study the possible distribution of the gene through a suite of naturally occurring viruses.

"These viruses are robust and can readily infect cane toad tadpoles. We plan to weaken the viruses so that other amphibians and fish will not suffer from the normal effects of the virus, if infected," Dr Hyatt said.

"Ultimately the development-arresting gene will be added so that only cane toads will be infected."

Scientists will conduct the study from CSIRO laboratories in Canberra and Geelong over two years.

Media contact:
Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill's office) 02 62777640 or 0419 258 364
Tony Robinson or Monica van Wensveen (CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems) - 02 6242 1600
Alex Hyatt or Emma Homes (Australian Animal Health Laboratory) 03 5227 5123

Commonwealth of Australia