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Oz eyes Chinese cane toad market

Amphibious pest to supply traditional remedies

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An Australian businessman has come up with a rather brilliant way of tackling the country's cane toad plague: sell the amphibious pest to the Chinese.

While it's not well regarded in the Lucky Country, the cane toad (Bufo marinus) is "a popular ingredient in a range of traditional medicines in China", the BBC explains. Its toxins serve as a "heart stimulant and as a diuretic as well a remedy for sinusitis and toothache", while its skin and organs are reputedly endowed with "powerful therapeutic qualities".

Accordingly, Queensland meat processing entrepreneur John Burey reckons there's a lucrative market for live toad exports. He said: "The Chinese have been using cane toads with their skins... in traditional medicines for many, many years now. I thought there was a possibly an opportunity there to try and turn a pest into something that might be profitable."

Burey is due to jet to Beijing next month to meet prospective clients, although he'll have to address "quarantine and licensing formalities" before the trade can begin.

Since being introduced into Northern Queensland from Hawaii in the 1935, in an ill-advised attempt to tackle the cane beetle problem, the cane toad population has swelled to some 200 million individuals which are advancing inexorably across the landscape, wiping out local fauna.

In the process, they have apparently grown longer legs to speed their conquest of new territories, and by 2006 had arrived on the outskirts of Darwin, some 3000km from their starting point.

In 2007, one individual was spotted in a Melbourne drain, having allegedly developed the ability to hitch a ride on lorries. ®

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