Indigenous knowledge key to saving goannas from cane toads

Date: 09-Apr-19
Author: Liam Taylor

The lace goanna is just one of the reptilians under threat as cane toads move into their territory.

The lace goanna is just one of the reptilians under threat as cane toads move into their territory.

A scientific team is collaborating with indigenous communities in the Kimberley’s to protect one of Australia’s most iconic animals. The team of conservation biologists from the University of Sydney has found success in a training method aimed at reducing goanna mortality from eating cane toads.

Over the past four years the research group, with the help of indigenous rangers, has been testing training programs involving feeding goannas less poisonous toadlets to teach them not to eat the deadlier adults. Over an 18-month period, the team found that 56 percent of trained goannas managed to survive as opposed to just three percent of untrained lizards.

A key learning from the project is that the skills and knowledge of Indigenous peoples has been vital to its success. Indigenous rangers are capable of finding goannas that are much shyer and more cautious about new food than those that non-Indigenous scientists have been able to catch. Interestingly, it is these goannas that are best at learning not to eat the cane toads, making indigenous involvement absolutely crucial to the project’s success.

The Kimberleys were long free from the cane toads wreaking devastation to Australian native fauna in Queensland and the Northern Territory. The toxic toads reached Western Australia in 2015 and are now advancing across the Eastern Kimberleys at a rate of approximately 50 kilometres per year.

The toads have a huge impact on fauna in the areas they infiltrate, especially the predators that are often unwittingly poisoned after eating them. Head of the research team Georgia Ward-Fear said that the introduction of cane toads to new areas often resulted in declines in goanna populations of up to 90 percent.

 

Positive Action

  • To find out more about the introduction of the cane toads and why they are an issue for Australian fauna, read the Department of Environment’s fact sheet.
  • There are actions you can take to help arrest the spread of cane toads across Australia. Check out the NSW Department of Environment’s advice.

 

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.

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Liam                                              Taylor
Author: Liam Taylor

Liam is Planet Ark's Communications Coordinator. Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia.



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