Cane toad sausages could be key to saving native wildlife
LOOKING for an adventurous dinner idea this week? Why not purchase a dozen sausages made from cane toad meat which are currently being produced in Western Australia.
If the idea of chewing down on snags made from one of Australia's most loathed feral species sounds a little nauseating, you understand the plan.
The cane toad sausages are not being made for human consumption, rather they are part of a taste aversion program to try to prevent native species from being killed by the pest.
As part of the plan, the cane toad meat is laced with a nausea-inducing chemical to make any animal that eats it temporarily sick.
Researchers hope this will train native wildlife not to eat them.
The snags are made with the help of locals who deliver live cane toads to a drop-off bin at a park in Kununurra, where they are collected and killed by being frozen.
Parks and Wildlife officer Andrew Rethus is the unlucky man tasked with chopping the dead toads into pieces so they can be processed into sausage meat.
"We're removing the legs from the cane toads and then removing the skin from the legs to leave just the bones and meat," he told the ABC. "Then it goes into a container to be sent down to Perth to be turned into sausages."
And while the idea of pulling apart dead toads sounds gruelling enough, Mr Rethus said the pests also emit a strong odour as they are pulled apart.
"It's a pretty tough job, but it's interesting," he said.
The refrozen chunks of cane toad meat are then sent to the Harvey bait factory where Rob Brazell mixes them with the nausea-inducing chemical.
"We'll take the flaked toad meat and put into the mixer-mincer machine where we'll be mixing it with the Thibenzole which is a nausea-inducing agent," he said.
"Then it'll be and minced out on a finer grain before we put it through the sausage-making process."
The stinky sausages are then scattered from helicopters across a remote Kimberley cattle station.
Lead researcher David Pearson said the concept was based on similar programs run overseas that had success with different species.
"We flew over those areas and dropped the sausages about every 100 metres and then we looked at the impact on the quoll populations both before and after that event," he said.
Cane toads are already halfway across the Kimberley, with researchers hoping the technique will save native wildlife as the feral species move towards Broome and Derby.
"We're going to have to do some more finetuning of the sausage to make it more palatable and interesting for quolls, and indeed something they then associate with cane toads," he said.