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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

15 March 2001


Biological controls must be found to halt the march of cane toads across Australia, according to Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill.

Senator Hill said the Commonwealth Government had invested millions of dollars in biological control research but had so far been unable to find a means to prevent the unwelcome arrival of cane toads in Kakadu National Park.

"Researchers have spent countless hours trying to find a way to stop the cane toads but the CSIRO hit a brick wall a few years ago," Senator Hill said.

"The Federal Government believes biological controls are the answer and vital research must continue. Last year, I called on researchers to apply for new funding under the Natural Heritage Trust to ensure this research continued.

"The CSIRO was subsequently allocated more than $1 million from the Natural Heritage Trust for a new project searching for a gene critical to toad development which can effectively be "switched off".

"The Animal Ethics Committee has now approved the proposed experiments. The first batch of tadpoles and adult toads are expected to arrive at the CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems unit in Canberra shortly for practical work to begin," Senator Hill said.

"Finding the right gene will lead to the CSIRO being able to arrest the toad's development - which could prevent it from reaching adulthood and to the reproductive stage."

"Dr Alex Hyatt from the CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory is also studying the possible distribution of the gene through a suite of naturally occurring viruses."

Senator Hill said the Federal Government was committed to finding new ways of controlling introduced species such as the cane toad. It had also ensured preparations for the arrival of this species into Kakadu started several years ago.

"The discovery this week of the first cane toads in Kakadu National Park was made by park rangers in a remote area of the park. Park staff have been diligently visiting and surveying potential entry points, including camping out, and I congratulate them for their efforts," he said.

"Every effort is being made to understand the full impacts of these invasive species on the park. Preparations include a risk assessment of the impact of cane toads in Kakadu, public education activities and staff training.

"All staff, many of the traditional owners and local businesses have been provided with training on cane toad identification and reporting requirements.

"Visitors entering the park have also been asked to watch for and notify the park of any cane toads they see," Senator Hill said.

"The Federal Government is concerned about the impacts of cane toads and will be working with park staff, scientists, traditional owners and the local community to ensure Kakadu's World Heritage values are protected."

March 15, 2001

Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill) (08) 8237 7920 or 0419 258 364
Anne-Marie Delahunt (Environment Australia) (02) 6274 2240 or 0412 446 136

Commonwealth of Australia