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Aussies deploy toad-blasting audio killing machine

War against the cane toad gets louder

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An enterprising Australian reckons he has found an answer to the plague of poisonous cane toads which is marching its way inexorably across Oz, according to a transcript of an ABC Radio National broadcast last week. The cane toad was introduced into Australia from Hawaii in the 1930s to fight the spread of cane beetles. Since then, it has advanced across the in-this-case-not-so-Lucky Country at up to 30 miles per year while swelling its population to 100m individuals.

Northern Territory inventor Andrew Arthur recently tested his "toad-blaster" audio Pied Piper - which broadcasts the cane toad breeding call, thereby luring the little blighters to their deaths - outside the Territory's parliament. Asked the reason for this unusual field trial, Arthur noted: "Oh, I see a lot of similarities in behaviour between toads and politicians, and the idea was, would it actually attract politicians, and it did."

The toad-blaster appears to be a simple amp and speakers set-up with a range of several miles. Arthur explained: "I'd see it working most effective on the front line, where the toads are crossing ridge lines, looking for places to breed. This call comes out, the toads would think oh, this toad has got a great place to breed, let's go there. And then you could use fence lines or traps to, yeah, it could be a march of death."

Whether Arthur's toad-blaster eventually proves effective in the war on the killer amphibans remains to be seen. In the meantime, over-zealous Aussies around Darwin have been indulging in the local sport of squashing cane toads with their cars. We say over-zealous because, sadly, they have in the process mistakenly totalled several benign native giant frogs.

The Australian reports that cane toads have just begun to menace Darwin - a pathfinding toad was recently spotted less than 40km from the city, presaging an imminent attack in force. However, frogwatchers have dismissed a report of the elimination of 30 vanguards 6km east of Darwin River as a bit of "blue-on-blue" which has lamentably resulted in 30 less giant frogs to grace the Outback.

FrogWatch co-ordinator Graeme Sawyer said: "We don't believe the cane toad has reached that area yet. There is a problem with people running over the giant frog with their cars. They tend to sit by the side of the road and they look like cane toads. People think they are killing a pest but they need to be careful and make sure it is a toad. These native frogs are common but we don't want people wiping them out."

Accordingly, FrogWatch is launching a "know your enemy" poster campaign to alert locals as to the difference between large friendly frogs and big bad toads. ®

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