Croakback Mountain: Is this the end of the cane toad?
QUEENSLANDS iconic but invasive pest, the cane toad, could be wiped out with controversial gene manipulation research which could turn localised populations all-male or create non-toxic toads.
Australia's top scientists at the CSIRO are in early stages of the cutting edge research which could be used to control the population of the introduced pest or even wipe it out.
The high-risk, high-reward gene-manipulation research is controversial, but the CSIRO say conventional methods are just not working.
It would be a far cry from more domestic methods such as spraying them with Dettol or swinging a cricket bat.
CSIRO research director Dr Andrew Sheppard said current methods of population control, such as trapping, were costly, labour intensive and not effective on a large scale, so more novel approaches were being developed.
"We're focusing on new gene technologies that are becoming available around the world that are recognised as having the potential for controlling widespread, established invasive species," Dr Sheppard told the federal parliament's environment and energy committee yesterday.
"The gene technology is now available to drive a deleterious gene for cane toads.
"In other words a gene that will cause cane toads to be less fit … (or) control it by turning the entire population male.
"One of the areas we've been exploring has been whether we could replace our currently toxic cane toads we have in Australia with cane toads which don't carry the toxin and therefore don't carry the threat to our native predators."
But he warned the technology was at its early stages and "quite controversial".
"We're doing a lot of work around risk assessment and public acceptability," Dr Sheppard said.
Federal Member for Brisbane and committee member Trevors Evans said cane toads were a huge problem in Queensland, as the invasive pest threatened native fauna and biodiversity.
"We're very interested to keep up to date with the science and research so we can use modern and effective methods to control cane toads and their spread across Australia," Mr Evans said.
"Genetic modification is at the absolute cutting edge of the research and science around the world that looks at the control of invasive species