Sessional Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development Written Submissions Received Volume 2 Issues associated with the progressive entry into the Northern Territory of Cane Toads October 2003
Tabled Paper 1123
Tabled Papers for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; Tabled papers for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; Tabled papers; ParliamentNT
Tabled by Delia Lawrie
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Written Submissions Dr Freeland Volume 2 Cane Toad Inquiry Report 153 Phase 1 was completed in time for it to provide a basis for a CONCOM co-ordinated approach to cane toad research. This involved the Commonwealth and affected States/Territories. Prior to any consideration of importing an agent of biological control (which has massive inherent risk) it was believed critical to first: develop a population model of cane toad populations so as to be able to predict which life history phase was most likely to provide the best target for biological control, and to provide a capacity to predict the likely effectiveness of a control agent prior to its release; document the pathology and parasites (viral and otherwise) of cane toads in Australia and determine whether the east coast decline was pathogen related; and gain a greater understanding of cane toad impact on the native fauna. These studies were undertaken with James Cook University developing the population model and undertaking the pathological work, and the Northern Territory continuing its proposed research program on impacts (as well as working with Queensland University on the toad's protozoan parasites). The research effort was successful in that the model was developed, the pathology completed and more information gained on toad impacts. There were however management difficulties associated with gaining the promised funding and the effort terminated. This lead to CSIRO's assuming a dominant role with Commonwealth funding in 1990. The Territory's Phase two research: found no impact on frog communities around waterholes in the dry season; demonstrated that the cane toad occupies a niche not present in those frog communities; found that native frog and cane toad tadpoles rarely (far less than by chance alone) inhabit the same water body; demonstrated cane toad tadpoles have distinct habitat preferences (differing from those of native frogs) and the potential for competition between them and native frogs is very limited; found there could be no assessment of impacts on the Northern Quoll because in spite on long search and much trapping, none could be found (the species was in decline long before the advent of the toad in the Territory) adjacent to areas occupied by the cane toad; demonstrated rapid decline and probable extinction of a native species of tapeworm and an associated destabilisation of frog communities (Attachment 4); found from a preliminary sorting of specimens that there was no impact on the species richness or abundance of ants during the first year of toad colonisation (only done for riverside habitat i.e. the area most intensively used by cane toads) but the full four year, three river and three habitat study died when I requested that the samples be shipped to me in Queensland and the vials were inappropriately packed and smashed in transit); documented drastic decline in a population of large bodied goannas following cane toad invasion, with recovery over two years (Attachment 4); found that while freshwater crocodiles force fed cane toads die on average in 3 hours, when 12 hungry freshwater crocodiles were housed (pond and adjacent dry area) with 12 cane toads for one week all crocodiles survived, but only 5 toads survived (most of the toad carcasses had been consumed following shredding)(the crocodiles seemed in good condition); and
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