The amazing toad detection dogs keeping Moreton Island cane toad free

Tommy the toad detection dog on Moreton Island


Cane toads are toxic at all stages of life and cause environmental damage. They poison and kill anything that consumes them, eat small reptiles, insects, and other amphibians, and displace and out-compete native species for food and resources.

They transmit diseases including salmonella and can cause toxic illness or death to humans if venom is ingested or if their venom enters the eyes. Symptoms include:

  • Accelerated heartbeat.
  • Breath shortness.
  • Excessive saliva.

Brisbane City Council employs cane toad detection dogs to sniff out cane toads who may have made their way to the island as part of the Keep Moreton Island Cane Toad Free program.


Emma the cane toad detection dog sniffing for toads on Moreton Island


The only method for cane toads to reach Moreton Island is by hiding in vehicles and trailers as people travel to the island from the mainland. With 170,000 visitors to Moreton Island every year and daily barge transportation, the risk is extremely high.

A broad suite of strategies is used to target messaging, education, calls to action, and surveillance in diverse ways, including:

  • The use of cane toad detection dogs to undertake surveys of the island during school holidays at Christmas and Easter and to help visitors identify and report cane toads.
  • The use of electronic signs at ferry and barge terminals to communicate the cane toad free status and remind people to check for toads when they unpack.
  • Residents are provided with information and tools to identify and respond to any accidental transportations of cane toads from the mainland.
  • Water bodies that have salt levels low enough to sustain breeding and potential establishment of cane toads are tested. Environmental DNA analysis (eDNA) analysis is undertaken twice yearly to look for microscopic presence of cane toads.
  • Education about the cane toad free status of Moreton Island and cane toad identification is offered through Council’s Environment Centres, at Green Heart Fairs, and through social media campaigns.

Because of the effectiveness of educational and communication strategies, cane toads have been identified and removed from Moreton Island, which is now one of the few cane toad free locations in South East Queensland.

A permanent detection dog is now located at Tangalooma Island Resort to ensure there are no accidental introductions with waste movement and to educate visitors about the risk of cane toads.

Download a copy of the program snapshot here.




















Becky the toad detection dog on Moreton Island


The results of the Healthy Land and Water 2020 Report Card were released last month, providing a spread of fantastic on-ground projects like this one happening in the region plus a comprehensive regional assessment of the health of each of South East Queensland’s major catchments, river estuaries, and Moreton Bay zones.

Have you explored the results yet? This is a great opportunity to learn more about the health of your catchment, the on-ground work happening in your area, and how you can be involved.

Explore more catchment stories


This project is delivered by Brisbane City Council in collaboration with Moreton Island Protection Committee, Tangalooma Island Resort, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Moreton Island Adventures, and the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation.

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