Wanted: A trap for toxic toads

WILDLIFE AUTHORITIES in Australia are so desperate to combat the country's worst pest, the dreaded cane toad, that they are staging a competition to find the best trap. The poisonous amphibians have been marching across the continent since 101 of them were introduced to Queensland in 1935 in an effort to eradicate cane beetles in the sugar crop. They have ravaged populations of indigenous fauna, including kookaburras, snakes, goannas (a sand monitor) and quolls (native cats).

The Northern Territory government is offering A$15,000 (pounds 6,150) to the inventor of the most effective trap. Cane toads secrete a deadly toxin and have killed even dingoes and freshwater crocodiles. They have a voracious appetite and a rampant libido, and breed rapidly.

Andrew Arthur, a Northern Territory musician near Darwin, has tested his "Toad Blaster", a battery-powered loudspeaker that replicates their mating call. "I got an immediate reaction," he said: "All the males in the area started arching up and calling. Males and females were drawn to it, and started moving towards the sound."

A businessman, Harry Maschke, has built a trap with circular swinging doors that drop the toads into buried buckets. It also has lights, to attract insects and increase its appeal to toads. And zoologists are searching gene technology to prevent the pests developing into sexually mature adults.

Originally from Venezuela, the toads were first released in Gordonvale, south of Cairns, but ignored the cane beetles and ate almost everything else. Then they fanned out, covering up to 30 miles a year, reaching the Northern Territory in the late 1990s. They have also hopped down to northern New South Wales.

On rainy days in northern Queensland, cane toads the size of dinner plates carpet roads and pavements. Drivers will weave across the highway, squashing them with their tyres. On warm evenings, the toads gather in suburban backyards, stealing pet food and snacking on insects. Spearing them with a garden fork appears only to irritate them, and whacking them with a golf club only lets off steam. Even the massacre on the roads makes a minuscule dent in an estimated population of 100 million.

But Cairns pubs stage cane toad races. Their skins are made into purses and handbags. And there are devotees of the hallucinogenic powers of their venom. There was an epidemic of toad-licking in the 1970s, and two Queensland dogs have been recorded as addicts.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
i100
Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album