Call for 'Kimberley Ark' gene bank
There are fears for the ongoing survival of the diverse wildlife of Western Australia's Kimberley, as the dreaded cane toad crosses borders and moves into the region.
Scientists are urgently calling for a gene bank to be established to store the genetic data of at-risk animals until the toad threat can be dealt with.
There are warnings the entire Kimberley ecosystem could be affected, and the University of Newcastle's Simon Clulow says the controversial step of setting up the 'Kimberley Ark' gene bank must be taken.
"Toads have been here for more than 70 years and no-one has been able to stop them," he said.
"In an ideal world it would be great to treat the cause, but that's not going to happen in time.
"So what we propose is that we begin to set up what we call the Kimberley Ark, a gene bank specifically for the Kimberley species that we know are going to decline and start banking down material that we are going to use to bring this genetic diversity back after they've been impacted."
With the toad population spreading at around 30 to 50 kilometres a year, scientists are concerned that the impact will be felt quickly.
Mr Clulow says top predators like goannas and freshwater crocodiles are all on the hit list.
"The research over the last four years has shown very healthy populations of nine species of goanna, three of which are going to be affected by toads, also populations of two species of turtle," he said.
"We are concerned about a species of frog which are entirely endemic to the Kimberley region, the magnificent tree frog - magnificent by name, and magnificent by nature."
The northern quoll is also expected to suffer heavy losses, including localised extinction.
Sean Doody is part of a team of scientists who has spent the last four years surveying the region and documenting the different species that exist.
Next week the team will visit the Kimberley to assess the potential damage.
"I guess there's an urgency about the Kimberley because we don't understand the biodiversity yet and we have this cane toad that's encroaching on the east Kimberley right now," Dr Doody said.
He says much of the Kimberley's wildlife has not been seen anywhere else
"Last year we rediscovered the scaly-tailed possum after it hadn't been seen in the east Kimberley for 100 years and so this is important because this sort of pristine wilderness is now under threat from that little toxic eco-terrorist the cane toad," he said.