Wednesday, 31 August 2016


Cane toads  were introduced to the north Queensland sugar cane area in the 1930s in the mistaken belief that they would eradicate the cane beetle.  Since then they have been steadily spreading south and west. To the west they have moved across the Queensland savanna into top end of  the Northern Territory ( including into Kakadu National Park) and  further west  into the Kimberley region in the north of Western Australia. To the south they have moved as far as the northern coastal section of the Clarence Valley in the NSW Northern Rivers. There are large populations in and around Yamba and Brooms Head.

Cane toads (Rhinella marina) are poisonous through their life cycle. As these introduced pests advanced they brought devastation to native wildlife which sought to prey on them in the areas they have colonised.  Goannas, snakes, freshwater crocodiles, quolls and dingoes are some of the native species which have died as a result of the toad's poison.

Efforts to eradicate the cane toad have been under way in the Clarence Valley for a number of years.

A community group, Clarence Valley Conservation in Action (CVCIA) Landcare, has been collecting and disposing of cane toads in the Clarence.  The work of these volunteers has been assisted by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, North Coast Local Land Services and local ecologist Russell Jago.

From July 2015 to May 2016 25,000 cane toads have been removed from the Clarence Valley.  71% of these came from Yamba, 17% from Brooms Head, 7 % from Chatsworth Island and 5% from other areas.  In addition 120,000 cane toad tadpoles have been trapped in the same period.  Trapping of tadpoles is a recent development and one it is hoped will cut toad numbers breeding in farm dams.

For further information on the cane toad in Australia refer to the  Australian Museum

Photo: Clarence Valley Conservation in Action Landcare

Friday, 26 August 2016


In February a small koala with a broken leg was picked up by a motorist on the Black Mountain Road near the Nymboi-Binderay National Park. At just 2.8kg, barely ready to leave her mother, the little koala was in a sorry state and would have died fairly quickly had she not been immediately taken to Ray Barnett's Clarence Valley Vet Clinic in Grafton.

WIRES was called, and little Peta, named after her rescuer, was X-rayed by Ray Barnett under a general anaesthetic and given a thorough checkup in contact with the Queensland Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. That same afternoon, still comfortably sleeping, she was transferred to Friends of Koala in Lismore, and by next morning was in surgery with the world's leading koala vets at the Australian Wildlife Hospital (AWH).

Peta in care at the Australian Wildlife Hospital

There Peta stayed for the next six months, lending herself well to captive care, gaining in weight, strength and agility as she underwent therapy and gathering the hearts of all who met her. This included the journalists of Australian Geographic, whose website now includes a video of Peta patiently undergoing her daily workouts.

Finally, her limp gone and able to climb again with confidence, Peta was given the all clear by AWH director, Rosie Booth to return home.

A release site was chosen not far from where she was found, and last weekend Peta was returned to her hinterland mountain home. Last seen she was munching contentedly in one of her favourite food trees to the notes of the bell-birds she had grown up with.

Peta in a forest she-oak after her return to the wild

Aside from a lovely success story, Peta has also furthered our knowledge of koalas' food preferences. While in care, apart from occasional forest red gum leaves, she would eat nothing but Allosuarina torulosa, commonly known as forest she-oak.

Although on some lists as a supplementary or secondary food source, the value of this non-eucalypt species has largely been ignored. Until now, one small koala has highlighted the point that it might well be an invaluable link between the primarily preferred forest red gums of the coast, and the river red gums of the inland across the koalas' range.
- Patricia Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on August 22, 2016.