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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

29 August 2004

Cane toad invasion threat - joint taskforce to defend WA

The Minister for the Environment, Senator Ian Campbell, has called on the WA Government to join forces to stop the dreaded cane toad from invading the state.

He said today cane toads posed a real and imminent threat to the State's biodiversity and could spread as far south as Margaret River, according to experts.

"The obvious point of entry is the Kimberley and that's where we will concentrate our defences," he said.

"Our generation has to do its utmost to stop these pests spreading into Western Australia."

Senator Campbell said a joint taskforce, including leading scientists, would head off an invasion by:

"The Australian Government will take all measures available to stop the cane toad reaching Western Australia in order to safeguard the state from the impacts of this menace," he said.

Senator Campbell said in a letter to his state counterpart, Environment Minister Judy Edwards that the role of the Australian Government was to facilitate finding national solutions to the problem.

"I am therefore seeking your cooperation to undertake a 'Kimberley cane toad program' implemented by both governments funded on a matching dollar for dollar basis," he said.

"The rapid spread of the cane toad and their ability to colonise a wide range of habitats makes the work quite urgent."

Senator Campbell said a number of recommendations to combat cane toads had been made by a group of experts who had reviewed the CSIRO's biological control project.

"As a result of that work, I will establish a national cane toad group, however because of the need for urgent action regarding Western Australia I am not prepared to hold up establishment of the joint taskforce," he said.

Cane toads were introduced into Queensland in 1935 to control sugar cane pests, but proved ineffective. They have since moved into northern New South Wales and the Northern Territory, including Kakadu National Park, and are threatening Darwin. A toad was also reported found in Port Lincoln, South Australia, earlier this year.

Senator Campbell said the Australian Government had spent $5 million on the cane toad fight, including three research programs currently being conducted by James Cook, Charles Darwin and Sydney Universities and promising biological control studies by the CSIRO.

"The states generally have shown little enthusiasm to try to combat this menace," he said. "Cane toads are causing enormous damage. In Kakadu, the northern quoll is highly likely to be eradicated and there has been severe depletion of some lizards and goannas.

"States and territories have a clear responsibility to combat and eradicate invasive pests.

"I am confident the WA government will join the Australian Government in this urgent work to halt the march of the cane toad into the Kimberley."

Commonwealth of Australia