26 September 2008
SMH, Lindsay Murdoch in Darwin
September 26, 2008
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.
Photo: Glenn Campbell
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
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
Only small numbers have reached Western Australia.
Captured cane toads are killed using carbon dioxide gas.