HopStop aerosol gives pest managers the means to humanely control cane toads, with a kill time of just 30-60 minutes. 

In a further display of the innovative ideas being brought to the market by Ensystex, regional director Steve Broadbent has announced the launch of HopStop for the humane control of cane toads. HopStop is a unique product, developed in Australia that enables people to kill cane toads safely, effectively and humanely.

HopStop is an aerosol spray, containing chloroxylenol as the active constituent that is sprayed directly onto toads without any need to touch the animals. It anaesthetises toads within seconds, and kills them humanely in 30-60 minutes. Toads are physically unmarked by the treatment, and do not display unacceptable physical signs of distress or trauma as a consequence of treatment. In fact HopStop is recommended by the RSPCA for toad control, and by the Queensland Schools Animal Ethics Committee for euthanising toads for school laboratory studies.

“Despite significant research into the spread of cane toads, no other system has been developed to allow for their effective kill. The hardiness of toads has raised much debate over acceptable and humane means of lethal control. Various ‘techniques’, commonly involving blunt objects, are widely used to kill toads, but these ‘methods’ raise significant and direct issues of animal welfare, as well as of the social acceptability of the condoned use of physical violence against animals,” said Mr Broadbent.

“A recent study on the humaneness of lethal control methods for toads conducted by the Vertebrate Pest Research Unit (Industry & Investment NSW) and the School of Biological Sciences (University of Wollongong) concluded that ‘a majority of the more ‘refined’ methods currently in use are not appropriately humane’. Only three methods were considered to be acceptable, namely, stunning, followed by immediate decapitation; suffocation by exposure to an atmosphere of at least 90% CO2 for at least 4 hours; or treatment with HopStop. With the former two methods generally being beyond the scope or ability of most people to enact properly, HopStop provides the only real solution.”

Mr Broadbent detailed the significance of the cane toad (Chaunus marinus) problem in Australia, “In 1935 a consignment of 101 cane toads was imported to Australia from Hawaii, where they had been established with animals sourced from Central America. During 1935-1937 thousands of offspring of the imported toads were deliberately released at points around Queensland in a misguided effort at biological control of beetle pests of the sugar industry.

“The beetle control plans were a failure and since then the toads have become a significant environmental and household pest. It is estimated that there are now more than 200 million toads in Australia. Their spread across the continent has been well documented, and extends thousands of kilometres to include major areas of the eastern and northern coast, including the iconic World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, significant inland areas of the continental north-east, and some off-shore islands. In addition cane toads are continuing to spread into northwestern Australia at a rate of more than 50 kilometres per year.”

Cane toads are even located in Sydney where a breeding population of toads was established by animals accidentally transported from infested areas. Predictions of the area over which toads may eventually spread are daunting.

“The impact of toads in Australia has been devastating. A major factor is the toad’s production of a highly toxic mixture of poisons. Animals that ingest toad toxins by consuming, or even mouthing, a toad are commonly poisoned. In domestic settings, toads poison significant numbers of pet dogs. The magnitude of this is illustrated by just a single veterinary clinic in Queensland that reported treatments for 90 poisoned dogs during a two and a half year period. In a similar vein, the widely acknowledged survival capacity of toads was highlighted by the induced vomiting of a living (and reportedly mobile and ‘unharmed’) toad by a dog 40 minutes after its observed consumption! This capacity for survival has important implications for the management of cane toads.

“At an environmental level, toads have, via their toxicity, massively impacted on populations of native predators, including quolls, snakes, monitor lizards (goannas), and crocodiles. Substantial levels of mortality and extinctions of local populations of predators have been recorded.”

Mr Broadbent concluded, “HopStop is an important product for the safety of domestic pets and the protection of Australia’s wildlife. It also potentially opens up new opportunities for professional pest managers in cane toad affected regions through the provision of either toad control services or the supply of HopStop to clients.”

Ensystex sees further opportunities to expand the use of the product for other serious pest species such as the Asian house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus).

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