Riverina on alert

A female cane toad in Jindera has alarmed agricultural and environmental stakeholders throughout the region.

The cane toad was found alive on February 26, 2021, but later killed.Experts were unable to tell whether it was gestating, or had recently laid eggs, leaving the Riverina on high alert.In the right conditions, cane toads can densely colonise an area at breakneck pace.Females are known to lay between 8000 and 35,000 eggs at a time, twice a year.The feral toads can reach up to 2000 recorded individuals per hectare.Cane toad sightings are frequent in Queensland, the Northern Territory, and some parts of NSW, but a sighting as far south as the Riverina is uncommon and forms an enormous threat to the previous unaffected region’s biosecurity.At the time of going to print the closest confirmed breeding area was Lake Innes in Port Macquarie, but a spurt of sightings so close to home brings up a myriad of questions for Riverina farmers, however NSW Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said new cane toad incursions had recently been reported in the Sydney, North Coast, South Coast and North West regions, as well as Jindera.“Cane toads are a serious biosecurity threat that can cause devastating impacts on communities, native wildlife, pets and ecosystems,” Mr Marshall said.“If you’re coming from cane toad infested areas such as Queensland or the Northern Territory, please check your luggage, vehicle or trailer to ensure you are not unwittingly carrying an unwanted passenger,” Mr Marshall added.Southern Riverina agronomist John Lacy said he presumed the Jindera cane toad likely hitched a ride from a subtropical area.“I would suspect this cane toad would have been carried down by a vehicle and then dropped,” Mr Lacy said.Given the presence of cane toads is atypical for the Riverina region, Mr Lacy suspects that cane toads will not be a sustained problem in the area.“I’m sure they can make it to the area, if they have been carried here and then dropped.“The question is whether they would survive the climate once they get here, and create a population,” he said.Cane toads are a serious pest, and cause significant harm to local wildlife and ecologies.Their presence can completely remove competing native species in their pursuit of food and shelter. A quick breeding timeline combined with voracious ability to eat not only insects and beetles, but mammals and birds, lends them the ability to become a severe issue.They are also a threat to typical predators, especially natives.Cane toads are capable of poisoning predators that try to eat them during all phases of gestation- as spawn, tadpoles, and adults.Cane toads became pests after being introduced into Australia in 1935 to control destructive beetles in Queensland’s sugarcane crops.If you see a cane toad, you are encouraged not to kill it, but instead capture it for identification purposes and call the Department of Primary Industries on 1800 680 244.Some native frogs have been confused with the feral toads, so identification is vital before destruction ensues.