App helps separate frogs from cane toads

By Karen Young 12 June 2013
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A new app aims to protect native frogs being mistaken for cane toads and killed at the hands of the public.

IN THE BATTLE AGAINST cane toads in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, populations of native frogs are suffering due to a case of mistaken identity.

According to the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), up to two-thirds of reported cane toads are actually harmless frogs. Species such as the native giant frog (Cyclorana australis) and bumpy rocket frog (Litoria inermis) are commonly mistaken for the invasive toad.

A new app, developed by the DEC and the University of Western Australia, aims to help the public distinguish between frog and toad to avoid mix-ups.

Associate professor Jan Dook at the University of Western Australia, who co-developed the app, says it is the juvenile cane toads in particular that resemble some species of native frog.

Professor Rick Shine, a biologist at the University of Sydney, says casual methods for killing cane toads have become accepted practice in some places in Australia, including the Kimberley.

Rick says that while drivers are likely to aim for cane toads in their vehicles, “there’s a very high error rate in identification… it’s very easy for people to get it wrong.”

The app details visible diagnostic features such as the colour, size, and shape of cane toads and native frogs found in the Kimberley, to encourage people to be sure of what they are targeting.