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Knee-high fence to halt rampaging Australian toads

Australia’s popular Kimberley wilderness region has resorted to a long knee-high fence to keep out the poisonous cane toad, which is rapidly overrunning the tourist attraction.

A two-kilometre barrier will be erected at Emma Gorge, made from cloth to allow other animals to move through while keeping out the toads, prolific breeders which secrete a toxin that can kill pets and wildlife.

Stop the Toad Foundation campaign manager Kim Hands said hundreds of thousands of toads had penetrated into the area and were threatening native species.

“Experience in the past has been that it has been really efficient,” she said of the fence.

The cane toad has spread widely in tropical Australia since being introduced to kill beetles in the 1930s, devouring insects, bird’s eggs and native species such as the quoll, a cat-like marsupial.

But a recent investigation by the University of Melbourne showed that the toad – up to 25 centimetres long and two kilos in weight – has an Achilles’ heel.

Unlike indigenous amphibians that have adapted to arid conditions, it desperately needs access to nearby standing water to survive.

Placing small fencing around man-made sources such as irrigation ditches and troughs is enough to cause the toad to die of dehydration and stop its advance, said the study.

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