Shirley talks about how custom officials also work to help protect species from being smuggled to other countries.
Ray: I remember watching a television documentary in the United States a few years ago that at one point they brought up the subject of these toads that live in Australia that supposedly have some substance that is for humans a hallucinogenic, does that ring any bells with you?
Shirley: Well, I don’t know about those ones specifically but I know that in Australia for example we have a huge Cane Toad problem. Cane toads are very big toads they are about the size of a small cantelope probably, and someone brought them in at the turn of the 20th century and they got loose in northern Australia and now there’s thousands and thousands and thousands of hectares covered with Cane toads and every year it costs the government a huge amount of money trying to control them and they’ve become a pest. And that’s one of the reasons why we have such strict quarantine regulations.
Ray: That makes sense. Of course, I guess we all know about the rabbits.
Shirley: Yes, rabbits were first brought into Australia from Britain, and probably just as someone’s pet and one got out …
Ray: You weren’t on duty that day
Shirley: I wasn’t on duty that day probably because it was maybe about a hundred years ago
Ray: You did say “previous life” so
Shirley: That’s true. Anyway, the rabbits got loose and there was periods in Australian history where there were millions and millions of rabbits and huge control programs and one of the things that they did to control them, which I think eventually did control them was they gave them a disease called “myxomatosis” which doesn’t kill the rabbit but makes them go blind … so they get infected with it. I think that it’s transmitted by a small flea and they go blind and I think, rather horribly, they either starve to death or they, you know, they just can’t survive. And that was what controlled them in the end.
Ray: Uh huh, until they come up with an immunity to it.
Shirley: Yeah, they don’t seem to have done that. I mean they’re still around a little bit, but not in the numbers, not in the plague numbers that they used to be in the past.
Ray: So now it’s toads that are the big problem.
Shirley: Yeah well, there’s other things as well but … yeah, toads are an ongoing problem.