Rewilding Darwin's goanna populations

A large Panoptes killed by a cane toadMany Australian reptile predators die from lethal toxic ingestion when they consume cane toads. Varanus panoptes, the Yellow-spotted Monitor is one such species with over 90% declines documented and widespread functional extinction following cane toads arriving in their habitat. There are many documented declines in such species and we have seen very significant declines in the Darwin area. There are some examples of these species persisting at East Point and coastal areas of Darwin, but they are in really low numbers.


Our research is showing that the population is not growing and we are losing animals from the population as they get larger. There are a range of theories and some research-based evidence to suggest that it is possible to train individual animals from predator species, such as varanids, to not kill themselves attempting to eat a cane toad. This Conditioned Taste Aversion, CTA, has shown some promise in trials detailed below.



Varanid species such as V.panoptes can live in excess of 20 years and this suggests that if the small animals are successfully treated then they will persist in the area and larger varanids will become present in the area and potentially radiate back into parts of the greater Darwin area where they have disappeared since the arrival of cane toads. Their important ecological functions as keystone predators can once again be part of the ecosystems around the Darwin area.


This proposal is designed to set up some facilities where captured Varanid lizards and Blue-tongue Lizard and frill-necked Lizards can be kept for a period to allow them to be exposed to cane toads under controlled conditions in order to develop CTA. The initial facility will be built at East Point on the grounds of the Fannie Bay Equestrian centre, one of the groups involved in the research.


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Did you know?

It is likely that the Varanid family evolved in Australia with fossils showing giant ancestors to animals like the komodo dragon being found in Australia.