Judy Edwards

Judy Edwards

Former Minister for the Environment; Science

    Minister inspects progress in cane toad campaign

    28/07/2005 12:00 AM

    Environment Minister Judy Edwards this week visited the ‘western front’ of the State Government’s $1.5million campaign against cane toads.

    Dr Edwards visited the Timber Creek area along the Victoria River, 200km east of the Western Australian-Northern Territory border to inspect measures the State and Territory conservation officials were taking in the bid to stem the westward invasion of what she described as ‘biological bombshells’.

    Dr Edwards and Kimberley MLA Carol Martin also met community representatives in Kununurra who were involved in a joint community-Government working group overseeing the implementation of a strategy to combat the menace.

    The State Government’s war on cane toads was bolstered by a further $900,000 allocation in the State Budget. This brought to $1.5million the amount the State Government had committed to the fight against cane toads since December.

    “Cane toads are more than just a threat to our lifestyle, they are agents of mass destruction to our wildlife and can have a major economic impact on our tourism industry,” the Minister said.

    Dr Edwards said an example was the northern quoll population in Kakadu National Park that effectively had been wiped out.

    “The impact has been such that the NT Parks and Wildlife Service has had to establish populations of northern quolls on offshore islands in an effort to conserve the species for future generations,” she said.

    The Minister said a key feature of the WA campaign was to work collaboratively with the Territory.

    “The degree of co-operation between the NT Parks and Wildlife Service and WA’s Department of Conservation and Land Management is critical to the success of the strategy being implemented,” she said.

    “I was particularly impressed at the degree of enthusiasm and collaboration staff from both agencies have for this program.

    “WA is the only State that so far has implemented active control and management initiatives ahead of the invasion of the toads. However, it is clear that we can learn much from the experience of Territorians.”

    Dr Edwards said measures taken under the State Government’s strategy had included:
    • developing and implementing a pre-emptive trapping program in the NT, including further trials and development of trap designs;
    • significantly strengthening quarantine arrangements on the WA/NT border to capture hitch-hiking toads;
    • mapping the NT distribution and key dry season refuges that can be the focus of control efforts;
    • identifying east Kimberley biodiversity hotspot assets at risk from toads; and
    • producing information material for the broad community to raise awareness of the looming cane toad menace.
    The Government also was exploring the possibility of using ‘sniffer dogs’ at quarantine checkpoints, as well as establishing a network of acoustic towers along remote areas of the Victoria River to detect the toads’ distinctive ‘purr’.

    A four-person cane toad surveillance and control team has been based in Kununurra to implement the surveillance and control actions as well as investigating cane toad reports in the East Kimberley and Victoria River region.

    “This team has so far covered 25,000km in the area and identified 120 waterholes, ponds and swamps that would be cane toad habitat. They also have inspected around 55 waterways,” Dr Edwards said.

    “Traps have been set up in caravan parks around Kununurra, in the Keep River National Park, Timber Creek, Coolibah crocodile farm and at Victoria River Bridge. Other traps will be set up at Big Horse Creek and on pastoral stations inside the Territory.”

    The Minister said although much of the country inside the Territory and in the Kimberley was relatively inaccessible, a key emphasis was being placed on roadways where the toads could migrate relatively freely as well as creek systems where the toads could cross.

    “While the range country provides some form of natural barrier, there are still many sources of water that would enable the toads to survive, even in the dry season,” she said.

    “Therefore, continued monitoring and community awareness is crucial to the containment effort.”

    Minister's office: 9220 5050