Aus­tralia’s pest plan

Kid bounty hun­ters

The Southland Times - - Front Page -

The march of the world’s big­gest toad across Aus­tralia has caused panic among politi­cians whose pro­posed so­lu­tion to the men­ace in­cludes en­cour­ag­ing school­child­ren to shoot them with an air ri­fle to claim a bounty.

Af­ter colonis­ing the north, two cane toads were found in Alice Springs last week, in the heart of the Out­back, prompt­ing alarm among MPs, some of whom sug­gested of­fer­ing a cash re­ward for each toad killed.

Since 102 of the toads were brought in from Hawaii more than 80 years ago in a mis­guided at­tempt to con­trol bee­tles threat­en­ing sugar cane plan­ta­tions they have mul­ti­plied into mil­lions and gained ground across the coun­try. The toads, which can grow up to 38cm long, emit a poi­son that kills most preda­tors in­clud­ing lizards, snakes and mar­su­pi­als, greatly re­duc­ing the num­ber of na­tive an­i­mals.

To halt their spread Bob Kat­ter, a pop­ulist Queens­land se­na­tor, wants the gov­ern­ment to of­fer chil­dren 40 cents for ev­ery cane toad they shoot with an air ri­fle.

‘‘It’ll give a bit of fun for our kids and a bit of pocket money for them as well,’’ he said.

Kat­ter be­lieves that his plan would be more ef­fi­cient than tra­di­tional mea­sures in which thou­sands of vol­un­teers set out each night and blud­geon or suf­fo­cate the toads. ‘‘Run­ning around with golf clubs and spades, plas­tic bags and suf­fo­cat­ing and pour­ing stuff on them – it’s just not work­ing,’’ Kat­ter said. ‘‘Up close it’s just squeeze the trig­ger. End of story.’’

His toad bounty trumps a sim­i­lar pro­posal put for­ward by Pauline Han­son, founder and leader of the One Na­tion Party, who has called for a 10c toad bounty to be paid by the gov­ern­ment for ev­ery live an­i­mal caught and handed in. Un­der her plan, the cap­tured an­i­mals would then be killed by the state by freez­ing them to death.

She has writ­ten to Scott Mor­ri­son, the prime min­is­ter, and asked for gov­ern­ment fund­ing for a three-month trial.

Ex­perts are doubt­ful that ei­ther plan will work. David Smer­don, an economist at the Uni­ver­sity of Queens­land, writ­ing in The Con­ver­sa­tion, said that the plans could cause what econ­o­mists know as the co­bra ef­fect, a phe­nom­e­non that takes its came from an anecdote re­lat­ing to a cash-for co­bras scheme said to have been in­tro­duced in British colo­nial In­dia to re­duce num­bers of the dan­ger­ous snakes. Peo­ple soon re­alised that they could breed the co­bras, kill them and then claim the bounty.

‘‘Run­ning around with golf clubs and spades, plas­tic bags and suf­fo­cat­ing and pour­ing stuff on them – it’s just not work­ing.’’ Queens­land se­na­tor Bob Kat­ter

FAIR­FAX

Cane toads emit a poi­son that kills most preda­tors in­clud­ing lizards, snakes and mar­su­pi­als.

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