September 5, 2005

Researchers Trap Cane Toads With UV Lights

DARWIN, Australia (AP) -- The dreaded cane toad might have met its match - disco-style ultraviolet lights. Northern Territory researchers said Sunday they have been successful using dark ultraviolet lights - the same as those used in nightclubs - to lure and trap the pests that are killing off many of Australia's native animals.

"We've found that the old toads are definitely a disco animal," Frogwatch coordinator Graham Sawyer said.

As part of the so-called "Toad Buster" project, the researchers caught more than 200 cane toads in three weeks at a location south of Darwin. After using red and blue moving lights that failed to attract the amphibians, Sawyer said they tried dark UV lights that were an instant success.

Cane toads were imported to the northeastern state of Queensland in 1935 in a failed attempt to control beetles on sugar cane plantations. The poisonous toads have since migrated to Australia's northern coast and south.

Sawyer said more than 1,500 toads had been caught at the site since January.

Finding a humane way to trap toads would end much of the controversy over how they are killed off in Australia.

A government lawmaker earlier this year said that he used to kill cane toads by hitting them with golf clubs and cricket bats as a child.

That comment was met with a warning from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that anyone caught causing pain and suffering to cane toads would be fined or jailed.