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Warning: carnivorous toads in shoes threaten Australia

May 12, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Most travellers come to Australia with a spring in their step, but a recent arrival at Cairns Airport went one better with a shoe containing a toad – of a species that could prove worse for Australia than the cane toad, if it became established.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is reminding all travellers to be biosecurity-aware and to check their luggage when packing for Australia, after recent reports of three unwanted amphibian hitch-hikers hopping the pond in passengers’ luggage, most notably in their shoes.

Head of Biosecurity for the department, Lyn O’Connell, said that while frogs and toads travelling in passengers’ shoes is not unheard of, one recent case stood out in that the passenger was wearing the shoes at the time, one of which contained a black-spined toad.

Close up of the toad

“While the passenger was being screened by a Biosecurity Officer, one the shoes elicited a reaction from a detector dog,” O’Connell said.

The toad was likely alive when the passenger put on the shoe to return from Indonesia. By the time biosecurity officers found the toad, it had croaked.

Of the other recent discoveries, a banded bullfrog – alive – was found in a passenger’s shoe at Perth Airport and a further black-spined toad was discovered at Melbourne Airport, both making the trip over from Thailand.

The black spined toad is related to the cane toad which, in Australia, has no natural predators.

The toad is potentially more damaging than the cane toad and could become established in the cooler parts of Australia. Being a carnivore, the black spined toad could cause significant damage to Australia’s natural environment. It competes with native frogs and toads for food and habitats, and is likely to carry exotic parasites or disease.

The banded bullfrog is a highly adaptable species found in flooded grassland, roadside puddles and urban storm drains.

Toad in shoe

“Australia’s biosecurity system safeguards our nation from deadly pests and diseases present in other countries,” O’Connell said.

“We are very lucky here to be free from many pests and diseases, but with increased overseas travel comes an increased risk of new pests and diseases entering Australia.

“We are constantly working to strengthen the way we manage biosecurity risks.

“Pests and diseases – like the banded bullfrog and black-spined toad – could seriously impact our unique environment, agriculture industries and our plant, animal and human health status.”

Edited by Peter Needham

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