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28 November 2005

Cane Toad Trap

Meet some people who think they've figured out how to beat the cane toads.

MELINDA JAMES: These are the finalists in the great cane toad trap competition.

Three are from Queensland, two are from the Northern Territory, and there's one from Victoria.

The competition is fierce.

First prize is $10,000 plus another $5,000 to help turn the winning design into a commercial product.

The contenders range from the highly sophisticated...

SEAN WEBSTER: This is a very high tech one Melinda, they build bird deterrents so they've applied themselves to the cane toad problem.

MELINDA JAMES: the very basic.

SEAN WEBESTER: This one operates on a different principle to the others. Where the others operated at night, they'd use an attractant such as a light or a caller, a toad call. This one actually operates in the day. It's a shelter.

MELINDA JAMES: Staff at Parks and Wildlife were inundated with one hundred and twelve different designs for cane toad traps.

They came from all over Australia. There was even one from Germany.

Any entries employing inhumane means of trapping or killing toads - like the use of Dettol - were immediately disqualified.

KEITH SAALFELD: It's definitely not a gimmick, it's very much about finding a trap that people can use in their backyards

MELINDA JAMES: Parks and Wildlife Officer, Sean Webster has been testing the traps over 15 nights.

At dusk, he attaches a fluorescent light to each trap to attract cane toads.

Then at intervals throughout the night, he checks each trap and the surrounding area.

SEAN WEBSTER: And we've got one here, there's a big male. Attracted by the light and the toad caller.

MELINDA JAMES: In the morning, the trapped toads are weighed, measured and marked with nail polish before being released so the base populations remain constant throughout the experiment.

It's 70 years since cane toads were introduced to Australia, from South America.

Northern quolls, snakes and goannas have already fallen victim to the toads' toxin.

And there are grave concerns for Darwin's frill-necked lizard population.
Despite their devastating impact, and rapid migration across the continent, little has been done to stop their spread until now.

Other governments are also starting to take action, with significant recent investments in biological controls and gene technology.

But scientists believe any form of biological control is at least a decade away.
So in the meantime traps are the only form of defence.

KEITH SAALFELD: One trap by itself probably isn't going to do a great deal, but if you end up with hundreds and thousand of traps out there, then you will have a realistic impact on the population.

MELINDA JAMES: But the best way to dispose of toads is still contentious. Hayes Creek publican, Bob Fisher's method.

BOB FISHER: Just bash 'em with a shovel...

MELINDA JAMES: ...has some fans in high places.

DAVE TOLLNER: I think if I was a cane toad I'd much prefer to go out by being belted over the head with a golf club than I would being stuck in a deep freeze.

IAN CAMPBELL: I remember as a child growing up in Brisbane I used to shoot them with my air rifle, that was relatively ineffective I can report.

KEITH SAALFELD: The best way to kill cane toads from the Parks and Wildlife's perspective is to freeze them. We can't advise people to take any other action because that potentially would be in breach of the Animal Welfare Act.

story notes

Finalists are the people or teams who compete in the final part of a competition. Notice the use of the -ist suffix to make personal nouns or nouns that name people. Follow the link to find out more.
more information: -ist suffix

 cane toad
Cane toads (scientific name Bufo marinus) are an introduced species.
An introduced species is a type of animal or plant brought into a place from somewhere else. Cane toads are considered pests because they are poisonous to native animals that try to eat them.

A contender is a competitor, or someone taking part in a competition.


Sophisticated means complex and advanced.

 high tech
High-tech means using advanced technology and modern materials.

A deterrent is something that stops or discourages people from doing something.

If something is basic, it isn’t complicated. It’s simple.

The word ‘principle’ is used to refer to a basic idea or rule. Notice that it's spelled with an 'l-e' on the end: principle. Be careful not to spelll it 'principal', which has a different meaning.
more information: principal & principle

place to hide

 Parks and Wildlife
Parks and Wildlife is the name of the government department that is responsible for looking after national parks.

Here, inundated means overwhelmed or flooded with. If you are inundated with work, you are given so much to do that you are overwhelmed.


The brand name of an antiseptic people use to treat cuts.

Over 15 nights means throughout or during 15 nights.


 northern quolls
One of four species of quoll in Australia, this carnivorous marsupial has the scientific name Dasyurus hallucattus.

Goannas are large monitor lizards.

 fallen victim to the toads' toxin
This means that they been killed by eating the poisnous toads. A toxin is a poison. Notice that the possessive apsotrophe is used after the 's' (toads') because more than one toad is being referred to.
more information: possessive apostrophe

 grave concerns
Grave concerns are very serious worries.
Example: We have grave concerns about the missing girl.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

 frill-necked lizard
The official name of this spectacular lizard is Chlamydosaurus kingii.

 in the meantime
In the meantime means in the time between two things happening.
Example: It's five o'clock and the train leaves at six. What are we going to do in the meantime?
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

 Hayes Creek
Hayes Creek is south of Darwin in the Northern Territory.