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Suspicious call triggers biosecurity risk

A teenager’s passion for frogs may have saved Eurobodalla from ecological invasion.

Charlotte Benjamin, 13, and her family know and love the wildlife in the creek backing their Catalina home but this week they heard a new call they couldn’t identify and turned to the Frog ID phone app and Eurobodalla Natural History Society for help.

“Finally my wife asked what a cane toad sounded like,” said Charlotte’s father, Steve.

That question set off a chain of events that prompted a high-level biosecurity response from Eurobodalla Council. Invasive species officer Paul Martin said it was an amazing example of citizen science protecting the shire.

Using a recording of the cane toad’s own call, the Benjamins were able to attract and catch the noxious pest, which was taken to a vet to be positively identified and dissected. The toad’s gut contents should confirm how long the poisonous amphibian had been in the shire.

Mr Martin said the toad may have arrived as frog spawn in a vehicle from up north and begs the question, “are there more out there?”

“Wildlife are struggling after fires and drought. It would be devastating if cane toads became established – that could destroy our birds, goannas, fish…it’s really quite scary,” Mr Martin said.

Council took immediate action to counter the threat, with surveillance of the Catalina waterway on Friday night and a specialist ecologist brought in for a formal study to detect if more cane toads are present.

Mr Martin said if more toads were found the matter would escalate.

“That would require intervention and a trapping program by the NSW Government,” he said.

Fortunately, the Benjamin’s toad proved to be male. Female cane toads lay a staggering 30,000 eggs in a single spawning. Mr Martin said Council will keep monitoring.

“Residents can help too. Listen to the cane toad’s call online – it’s a pretty unusual call. Keep an ear out and report any suspicious calls to Council.”

For cane toad identification and call, visit https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/animals-and-plants/pest-animals-and-weeds/pest-animals/cane-toads/how-to-identify-a-cane-toad


Above: Charlotte Benjamin, 13, of Catalina, with dad Steve, and brother Tom, 11, and their cane toad catching kit.

Above: Steve Benjamin shows a photo of the cane toad his family caught in the creek bordering their Catalina backyard to Eurobodalla Shire Council’s Invasive Species Officer Paul Martin.

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