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Oz military to battle cane toads

Last-ditch defence of Darwin

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An Australian environmental group has asked the military to intervene in a last-ditch attempt to stop the inexorable advance of the cane toad on Darwin, Reuters reports.

The introduction of the cane toad to Oz in 1935 - designed to combat native cane beetles - provoked an environmental disaster. Their numbers have rocketed to an estimated 200 million dedicated to the destruction of local fauna including snakes, goanna lizards and quolls (cat-sized marsupial).

During their stay in the Lucky Country, cane toads have evolved longer legs to speed their progress. They now spread at around 40km per year, and have since 1935 advanced 3,000 km from Northern Queensland to threaten Darwin in the north.

FrogWatch spokesman Ian Morris told Australian radio: "We need as many people on the ground as we can possibly get, and if the military can work out strategies for controlling toads on their ground, well that's fine with us."

FrogWatch has been fighting a desperate battle to keep the cane toad from Darwin, enlisting local residents who participate in "Toad Busts" by trapping the animals in plastic bags "in a bid to slow their steady march westwards".

Frog Watch's Graham Sawyer explained: "It's still early enough. We're not going to stop every single cane toad from getting in to Darwin, but what we'll do is get rid of them all as they arrive, and stop that build-up of toads."

Quite what the military's role might be is anyone's guess, but we suspect it might require action such as that in the original film version of War of the Worlds, involving flying-wing aircraft and nuclear warheads. Sadly, we suspect that as the dust clears observers will be subjected to the chilling sight of the cane toad emerging unharmed from the blast zone.

Other suggestions as to how to deal with the cane toad menace have entertainingly included a toad-busting audio killing machine, which "broadcasts the cane toad breeding call, thereby luring the little blighters to their deaths". ®

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