Monday, 26 March 2018

Wild quolls take bait of cane-toad sausages, offering hope for species

Wildlife managers hope taste aversion technique can help safeguard the endangered northern quoll

Mon 19 Mar 2018 05.19 GMTLast modified on Mon 19 Mar 2018 05.47 GMT

Scientists are a step closer to stopping the devastating march of toxic cane toads across northern Australia, as the introduced species continues to decimate what is left of the native quoll populations.

Field trials of a technique used to turn quolls off the taste of toads has yielded positive results, which were published in this month’s Austral Ecology journal. 

Science is back! To help educate quolls about cane toads. With sausages
The method involves feeding northern quolls sausages made of toad mince laced with a chemical that makes them nauseous.

Cane toads have poison in their glands that kills predators such as quolls and snakes when they eat the toads. The researchers had previously found captive quolls that were fed the sausages showed less subsequent interest in cane toads and were less likely to attack them than those that were not fed the baits.

The latest trial found wild quolls were also attracted to the sausage baits and that almost two-thirds of them ate the baits when they came across them. Between 40% and 68% of the wild quolls that ate the bait developed an aversion to the taste.

Researchers are hoping to use cane toad sausages to create a food aversion in northern quolls to save them from extinction. Photograph: University of Technology Sydney

Cane toads, which were introduced into Queensland in the 1930s to control crop pests, have been responsible for wiping out many native animals, including local populations of the endangered northern quoll, the smallest of Australia’s four quoll species.

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