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; ParliamentNT
Tabled by Delia Lawrie
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Written Submissions Parks & Wildlife Commission NT Volume 2 Cane Toad Inquiry Report 35 Private landowners in the Darwin region may be able to fence all or part of their gardens to exclude toads. Toads do not jump or climb well and a smooth metal fence of 30cm height should exclude them. However the same weakness applies as to any other fence in that an open gate or a fence breach could quickly lead to invasion of the premises. 3. The most promising control mechanism is a biocontrol agent. CSIRO is researching the use of a genetically modified virus that would interfere with the metamorphosis of tadpoles. Since 2000, $1 million has been provided under the Natural Heritage Trust for this project and an additional $489,000 for the project was recently announced by the Commonwealth government. This work may take up to 10 years to develop. Such an agent would, however, need to be specific to cane toads otherwise it would also affect other non-harmful native toads elsewhere in the world. 4. The most practical mitigation conservation action is the rescue of representatives of the most susceptible species, and enhanced protection of some special areas. While all of mainland Top End is likely to be colonised by toads in the near future, offshore islands are likely to be far more toad-proof (depending upon the frequency of human visitation and the quarantining measures in place). It is biologically feasible to use at least some of these islands as arks. The Parks and Wildlife Service moved populations of northern quolls onto two islands (Pobassoo and Astell) in the English Company group off north east Arnhem Land in March 2003. This program had the support and involvement of the traditional owners. The government has provided funds for the next three years to further develop the role of islands as conservation arks for species that have suffered or are suffering from threatening processes on the mainland. This includes species that declined to extinction on the mainland of the Northern Territory prior to the arrival of cane toads. This project has four main components. a. Ongoing monitoring of the quolls already translocated. This will continually measure success of such efforts and provide valuable experience for other species that may be moved. b. Selection of other species to be moved to islands. This depends on the degree of threat of the species and the habitat suitability of offshore islands. It will also depend on the willingness of the Aboriginal owners to accept such species. It is one thing to agree to having Quolls but quite another to have King brown snakes which are likely to be affected by cane toads but which are also highly dangerous to people. c. The efficacy of this project will be broken down by poor quarantine standards. A co-ordinated effort to keep toads off islands is essential. This must include the development of appropriate operating procedures at mainland barge and other shipping ports, and broad communication to fishermen, Aboriginal landowners, yacht-owners etc. of information about toads and the need for vigilance about inadvertently moving toads in boats. An important part will be involving and supporting Aboriginal communities to maintain quarantine controls over islands that are free of cane toads and/or cats.