Kids learn which foods are good for you and which are deadly from their parents. Some animals however, have to go through a process of trial and error when it comes to introduced critters.
That’s why a group of scientists are working to teach native Australian wildlife to stop eating fatal, non-native cane toads – with cane toad sausages. Yum.
The approach is known as “taste aversion conservation” and aims to teach native meat-eating animals like quolls and goanas not to eat yucky cane toads, by giving them small samples of the slimey creature.
The sausages make the animals mildly sick. Not enough to harm them, but potent enough to deter them from trying to eat cane toads in the future. Genius! Scientists are calling on the community to catch and donate as many cane toads as they can stack to the project.
Corrin Everitt of the Western Australian government’s State Cane Toad Initiative told Mashable “We take the sausages to remote and local areas, and set it up so that a native animal will eat it. We have remote cameras to track the animals progress overnight…”
The sausages are 100 percent cane toad, but not all of the hoppy pests can be used in the project. Only the legs of the male cane toad can be used, and the female toads had to have their heads removed – otherwise the sausages would be fatal.
“Just using the legs, you can imagine how much toad we can’t put in the mincer,” Everitt said.
Cane toads were introduced into Australia in ’30s by Queensland sugar cane farmers to control insect problems, but it didn’t work out quite like they planned. The toads have spread across the country in the 70 years since their introduction, and everyone hates them.
As gross and stinky as the sausages are to make, Everitt reported that the project is already yielding impressive results, with many predators adaptive enough in their eating habits to slowly learn that some toads just aren’t meant to be food.