Cane Toads

25 Jul 2007 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Environment and Conservation questions about cane toads.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Professor Mike Tyler, also known as the ‘frog man’, is a well-known expert on the subject of frogs, toads and associated beings. He has briefed me on the cane toad issues which may well affect South Australia, stating that the cane toad march is 70 kilometres south of Longreach, which leads into the Innamincka water system and, with a very heavy rainfall, this may well end up in the Murray-Darling Basin. Professor Tyler is working very hard on means of controlling the cane toads through his olfactory project, which is funded by the federal government, and he is obviously very concerned about this issue. He also says that because the numbers at the fringes are not huge the cane toads can be controlled through trapping but not without public education. My questions are:

1. Can the minister confirm that Professor Tyler wrote to the government seeking to brief the government and that his request was met with a ‘thanks but no thanks’?

2. Can the minister advise whether the state government has any flags for the cane toad as a pest in this state and, if so, what strategies does the government have in place to control this potentially very dangerous pest?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO(Minister for Environment and Conservation): I thank the honourable member for her important questions. This is an issue for South Australia as it has been for many other states. We know that the cane toad has been unsuccessfully managed in a number of other states.

We are fortunate here in South Australia that, as yet, it has not reached our borders; however, notwithstanding that, there has been an odd incursion that we have been able to trace through the importation of interstate goods and we have been able to respond very quickly to eradicate those single examples of those incursions here in this state. So far we have managed this extremely well. We know that they are slowly moving further south. No other state has been able to prevent the final incursion into their state.

We are doing a number of things, and I am happy to outline them. Cane toads are in the upper reaches of both the Murray-Darling Basin and Lake Eyre Basin and slowly moving downstream towards South Australia. Notwithstanding significant human assistance, such as inadvertent movement in produce and goods, I am advised that it will take the cane toads many years through natural dispersal to cover the distance of about 1 500 kilometres in a straight line from the Queensland Murray-Darling Basin rivers to the Murray-Darling rivers in South Australia. I am advised that the current populations of cane toads are still approximately 400 kilometres upstream from South Australia in the Lake Eyre Basin creeks. The previous single detection of cane toads in Adelaide was the result of an occasional and random inadvertent movement in goods and produce from northern Australia. These incursions, which have not resulted in any permanent populations establishing, were quickly eradicated.

I am advised that the sources were able to be identified.

There are no options currently available to prevent the natural spread of cane toads into South Australia via the Lake Eyre Basin or the Murray-Darling system. Current biosecurity protocols in South Australia provide for a framework for a state government response should an incursion via natural dispersal occur. The location and extent of the incursion will determine what control options are feasible, practical and effective, so we have those biosecurity protocols in place.

Natural resource management board officers and Department for Environment and Heritage ranger staff conduct surveillance for cane toad incursions as part of normal inspection and survey work across the state. DWLBC and the South Australian Arid Lands NRM board are working together to develop a regional operational response plan for the Lake Eyre Basin; so that is also under way. DWLBC provides an inspection service for the general public to identify frogs that are suspected to be cane toads; so that educational work is occurring.

Currently, CSIRO and the Invasive Animals CRC are undertaking a range of nationally coordinated research projects on cane toads, using a fairly radical genetic solution;

so that research is also under way. Most of this research is being conducted in those states currently affected the most by cane toads. Any successful results from this research will benefit South Australia in stopping natural dispersal towards South Australia. Information on cane toads and reporting procedures has been circulated to the road transport industry, the nursery industry, and fruit importers operating at the Pooraka markets; so a general information campaign also has occurred.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have a supplementary question. Given that Professor Tyler has 50 years’ research experience in this area, will the minister or one of her officers agree to meet with him?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I am not aware of his approach to my office, nor am I aware of his credentials. I am happy to look into correspondence that he has had with the office or my officers and follow up appropriately.