PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Informing the community about a native fauna threat
Cane toad app

Jan Dook  

Cane toads, Rhinella marina, were introduced to Australia in 1935 in an attempt to control cane crop pests. Although unsuccessful in controlling pests, they have become extremely successful, steadily expanding their range and reaching the Kimberley region of Western Australia (WA) in 2009. Curtailing the spread of cane toads is difficult and various methods have been employed such as building toad proof fences around water holes and physically trapping animals. Unfortunately a significant number of animals that are trapped are not cane toads but instead are native frogs. While mature cane toads are easily identified, juvenile and small metamorphs are difficult to distinguish from native frogs. To assist identification an app has been developed at The University of Western Australia (UWA) in partnership with WA Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaw). The app is freely available and allows users to determine "Is it a cane toad". The first edition featured 7 Kimberley native frogs that were commonly mistaken with cane toads while the second edition included a further 5 native frogs from south-west WA. People in metropolitan Perth were ringing the cane toad hotline worried that a frog in their yard was a hitch-hiker toad from the Kimberley. Parks and Wildlife staff direct people to the app as a first step. Evaluation of the app as an effective communication tool demonstrated that while many people still prefer to text or email images to a Parks and Wildlife officer, the app has been successful in informing and empowering the community in native frog identification. The app (the first of its kind in Australia for this kind of service) has also been successful in delivering the message about hitchhiker cane toads in WA and provided another mechanism for the general public to learn about threats to native fauna.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.