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Pest toad turned into princely footwear

The warty and toxic cane toad may be the most reviled animal in Australia, but a charity has devised a way to make good use of the invasive pests – fashioning them into sneakers fit for a prince.

Efforts to eradicate the repulsive hopper, a prolific breeder which has spread widely in the country’s tropical reaches since being introduced to kill beetles in the 1930s, have included killing them with golf clubs and driving over them.

But Rupert Noffs hopes the shoes he and his brother Matt have devised will be a kinder way of depleting the numbers of the incredibly tough amphibian which secretes a poison which can kill pets and wildlife and injure humans.

He says that people who have seen the sneakers – which combine kangaroo leather with a cane toad detail – are taken aback at how a loathsome creature can be converted into a fashion statement.

“Sometimes when people first see them they kinda freak out and then they go ‘Actually, it’s quite beautiful’,” he said ahead of the Gideon Shoes launch in Sydney last week.

“They dye them, we’ve got them in blue, gold, red, pink, black and they are actually really beautiful. They are very durable, and as we all know, they are pests, so what better way to use them after they’ve been put down?”

Mr Noffs, who described cane toads as “totally gross” said even he had to be convinced that the hide would be a suitable component for the fashion line he and his brotherwant to use to fund their charitable works.

But having just come back from New York where the shoe’s concept was well received and with celebrities such as Jay Kay from Jamiroquai taking a pair, he is hopeful consumers will take to them the way cane toads took to Australia.

He said he tells people: “Someone has kissed them and turned them into a handsome little sneaker.”

Rupert, 27, and his 30-year-old brother Matt decided to make the shoes as part of a fashion line they are hoping will fund an expansion of their outreach programmes for young people struggling with drug addiction, homelessness and other problems.

The name Noffs is well known in Sydney, where Rupert’s late grandfather Ted Noffs established the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross in the 1960s to offer refuge to those living on the streets.

The brothers have stuck with the family business, with Rupert setting up the One Noffs fashion store for recycled and redesigned clothes and brother Matt and his wife establishing the Street University in western Sydney to help young people.

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