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Timorese farmers say diggers introduced the c -

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Timorese farmers say diggers introduced the cane toad

The World Today - Tuesday, 9 September , 2008 12:50:00

Reporter: Zoie Jones

ELEANOR HALL: Australian peacekeepers who arrived in East Timor in 1999 are being accused of
bringing more than goodwill.

Farmers in some parts of the tiny nation have accused the Australian Defence Force of bringing in
cane toads.

Now they're are calling on Australia to help fix the problem, as Zoie Jones reports.

ZOIE JONES: The Australian-led INTERFET peacekeeping force entered East Timor in 1999.

Many of the Australian troops and vehicles came directly from Darwin, where the cane toad is now a
permanent resident.

Simplicio Barbosa is Timorese and works for the NGO Care International in Dili.

He says he's seen cane toads as big as his hand in parts of Timor, and the Australians are to
blame.

SIMPLICIO BARBOSA: Yes, there are many here brought by them, the INTERFET. It is actually dangerous
here because it kills like chicken or like somebody steps on them, especially kids.

ZOIE JONES: It's dangerous because the cane toads are poisonous?

SIMPLICIO BARBOSA: Yes, is poisonous, is really, really poisonous. It kills a lot of chickens here.

ZOIE JONES: Are there a lot of cane toads in Dili as well as out in regional areas?

SIMPLICIO BARBOSA: I saw some here in Dili, not much, I saw some in Dili, it spread so quickly.

ZOIE JONES: Simplicio Barbosa from Care International in Dili says he's travelled to some districts
in East Timor where people believe the cane toads were deliberately brought into the country by the
Australian Defence Force to deal with poisonous snakes.

SIMPLICIO BARBOSA: When I went there to the district, they told me that the Australians brought the
toads in order to kill because there were also a lot of poisonous snakes here, so they brought the
toads to kill the snakes.

ZOIE JONES: Darwin's Lord Mayor Graeme Sawyer is also passionate about eradicating the cane toad
from the Top End.

He says it's highly likely that the pests hitch-hiked into Timor aboard Defence vehicles.

GRAEME SAWYER: Cane toads are fantastic hitch hikers; they love crawling up under machinery and
stuff to refuge during the day. Also they get into loads of freight and stuff, they've turned up
all over Australia in that mode, so it's quite likely.

ELEANOR HALL: Toad-busting mayor Graeme Sawyer says the Australian military needs to take
precautions including quarantining vehicles in cane toad proof compounds before they're sent to
east Timor.

GRAEME SAWYER: We'd like to see the military step up some of their operations against toads on
military land right around Darwin, but I'm not aware of procedures that they've got for their
overseas stuff. I understand the Tiwi Islands and people like that have spoken to them about making
sure they don't bring toads onto the islands.

ZOIE JONES: The Defence Department has released a statement saying they're aware of claims cane
toads were introduced by Australia's first military intervention in East Timor.

Defence says that while vehicles and equipment from government and non-government organisations
were transported from a range of different Australian ports to East Timor during the last nine
years, it would difficult to pinpoint the source of the introduced species.

ELEANOR HALL: Zoie Jones reporting.