While the introduction of cane toads into Australia was a giant blunder, it can’t really be said that man isn’t now trying everything possible to minimise the damage caused by the marauding creatures.
As the pest continues its slow march across Western Australia’s Kimberley region, we have already seen sniffer dogs out and about checking grey nomad caravans for unwanted hitchhikers; research is being done to see if artificial waterways, like cattle troughs and dams, can be sealed off, to block the toad’s movement; and now, sausages stuffed with minced cane toads are to be tossed from helicopters in an attempt to prevent quolls being wiped.
A five-year study found that captive quolls can be trained to avoid eating cane toads so now the concept is now being expanded in an attempt to aid wild quolls that are in the path of advancing cane toads.
Guardian Australia reports that researchers will mince up the legs of cane toads and place them in sausages along with a nausea-inducing chemical. When a quoll bites the sausage, it will feel temporarily sick and deterred from cane toads once it comes into contact with them.
Australian Wildlife Conservancy ecologist, Dr Katherine Tuft, said that hundreds of the sausages will be hurled from helicopters across large tracts of the Kimberley from November.
“There are some unknowns, but I’m really hopeful it will work,” she told Guardian Australia. “We expect the cane toads to arrive here during the wet season, so we’re planning to get the quolls prepared before then.”
Earlier this year, many grey nomads would have met Reggie, the sniffer dog, who is trained to detect cane toads.
While Department of Parks and Wildlife officer Sean McGee said the toads were moving west at approximately 50 kilometres a year and would not reach Broome for several years at that rate, their arrival could be accelerated by hitchhiking toads.
“If you have people transporting them over to Broome in their cars and caravans, the toads are going to be here a lot sooner,” Mr McGee told the ABC. “It’s a perfect climate for them, so you only need a couple of toads to get here and a population will kick off.”