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Enduring the toad invasion: A successful re-introduction of ‘toad-smart’ northern quolls

Cremona, T., Spencer, P.ORCID: 0000-0002-4938-2615, Shine, R. and Webb, J. (2013) Enduring the toad invasion: A successful re-introduction of ‘toad-smart’ northern quolls. In: 5th joint conference of New Zealand Ecological Society and Ecological Society of Australia, 24 - 29 November, Auckland, New Zealand.


Cane toads have had devastating impacts on many vertebrate species as their invasion progresses across northern Australia. Monitoring of northern quoll populations has indicated severe declines and even local extinctions due to ingestion of the lethal cane toad toxins. Cane toads cannot be eradicated in the near future, so we need new methods to reduce cane toad impacts on predators. In order to minimise the impacts of cane toads on the endangered northern quoll, we trained captive-bred quolls to avoid consuming cane toads and reintroduced these toad-smart quolls to a site in Kakadu National Park.

Three years after the initial reintroduction, quolls are surviving in Kakadu. A number of females have survived to reproduce in multiple years and genetic analysis has shown at least half of the population is descended from captive bred females. We are now seeing second and third generation females surviving to reproductive maturity.

Our results demonstrate the potential for reintroduction to facilitate population recovery when threat removal is not possible. Because cane toads cover several million square kilometres, it is unlikely that we can eradicate this threat in the near future. Nonetheless, teaching captive-reared animals to avoid a threatening process may help to enhance the success of reintroduction programs.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
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