I am pleased to present this report on controlling the spread of cane toads in Australia.
Cane toads quickly became endemic in Australia following their introduction in 1935 to eradicate the cane beetle. Unfortunately the toads did not combat the beetle, and the hunter has become the hunted. Being both resilient to our conditions and prolific breeders, these toxic toads have caused havoc with native wildlife.
This inquiry provided an opportunity to review and renew efforts to control the spread of cane toads. There is no easy solution. Cane toads are firmly established in Australia and we are unlikely to get rid of them. The best we can do is limit their numbers where they exist, and prevent their spread into places they have not yet invaded.
The recommendations in this report envisage taking immediate practical steps, as well as continuing with research efforts toward larger-scale solutions.
We can take steps to limit and prevent the spread of cane toads onto islands and untouched areas. In particular, there is an opportunity to prevent their invasion further into Western Australia. Cane toads need access to water to survive, and are predicted to advance along a narrow stretch of coast between Broome and Port Hedland. Denying cane toads access to water along this corridor during the dry season could halt their spread. Tanks and troughs used by pastoralists in the area could be modified. Time is limited – once cane toads progress to Port Hedland, this window of opportunity will close.
Practical measures within local communities are also having an impact on controlling the spread of cane toads. Tadpole trapping, in particular, appears to be an effective option that could be better supported and expanded.
Biological and genetic controls could provide an answer on a large scale over the medium to long term. These are worth investigating through support for ongoing research, subject to taking precautions against risks to other species and the environment.
The Federal Government has a leadership and coordination role in the national efforts to control cane toads, and should accord appropriate priority to it. At the same time, the Federal Government can’t do it all alone. State and Territory governments are the key implementing partners for measures to control toads. All levels of government can do better to ensure effective action and coordination.
The Committee held public hearings with scientific experts, community groups and Government departments, gaining valuable insight into current efforts to control cane toads and the newest methods that show promise. On behalf of the Committee, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the inquiry.
Hon Dr David Gillespie MP