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Toad News

26 September 2008

SMH, Lindsay Murdoch in Darwin
September 26, 2008
Original story

End of the toad as Winton aids Kimberley muster

TIM WINTON has joined the Great Toad Muster, a last stand against millions of cane toads marching towards the region of Western Australia he wrote about in his 2007 co-authored book, Rhythms Of The Kimberley.

"It's amazing to see how many toads are out here causing such devastation," the Perth author said on the remote Auvergne cattle station in the Northern Territory, near the West Australian border.

Winton, patron of the Stop the Toad Foundation, and volunteers from around Australia have captured 18,000 cane toads near the station's waterholes since the muster began last Saturday. Eleven volunteers scooped up 5000 toads at a single location in a few hours.

Gotcha … Tim Winton gets to grips with a poisonous feral.
Gotcha … Tim Winton gets to grips with a poisonous feral.
Photo: Glenn Campbel
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Organisers are confident that by using mobile barriers, a new way of capture, the four-week muster will see the end of tonnes of the ugly, poisonous toads that were introduced into Queensland in 1935 in a disastrous attempt to eliminate cane beetles.

The toads, which unlike frogs cannot climb, are being caught in bulk when they come across the barriers near the waterholes.

"It's given us a surprising ability to pull a mass of the toxic ferals out of the landscape in a short distance, so it's a heartening development," Winton told the Herald.

"We are hoping to keep the toads out of the Kimberley, one of the last great wildernesses," Winton said. "But we know that an annual collection of cane toads on the landscape is not a permanent solution. We are executing a holding action while the scientific boffins in Canberra can find a biological solution."

Government agencies have been attempting for decades to find a biological control for the toads as they spread from Queensland across the top of northern Australia.

When the heavily built, warty creatures have arrived in new areas they have quickly killed rare northern quolls, goannas, snakes, turtles, crocodiles and other native species.

Winton, a three-time winner of the Miles Franklin Award and an author of 20 books, described the failure of Australians to fight to stop the toads spreading from Queensland over many years as "spineless fatalism".

But he said he has been inspired by the 70 volunteers working at the muster in searing end of dry season temperatures in one of the most rugged and isolated parts of Australia.

Winton, who wrote Rhythms of the Kimberley with Russell Gueho, said it would be disastrous if the toads reached the area's dramatic landscape.

Only small numbers have reached Western Australia.

Captured cane toads are killed using carbon dioxide gas.

 

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