The Kimberley Ark project is establishing a genebank for species of the Kimberley region most likely to be impacted by the cane toad invasion. The actual “bank” itself is remarkably simple, all that is required is a container to store the tissues in liquid nitrogen to keep them frozen at the correct temperature.
Cane toads are highly toxic and have advanced across Northern Australia. Predators that eat the toad are particularly vulnerable and our populations of quolls, goannas and other native carnivores have since crashed dramatically, resulting in a drastic loss of genetic diversity. When many individuals are lost the population must start again from very low numbers. This leads to inbreeding between closely related individuals and results in population health issues and the loss of the species’ ability to respond to changes in the environment.
Kimberley Ark scientists achieved an Australian first (second time world-wide) in 2014 when they obtained sperm samples from a lizard species. Currently the team are working up techniques and protocols for yellow-spotted monitors, sand monitors, heath monitors and various skink species that are at high risk of extinction. The race is on to bank target species, ensuring the genetic diversity is frozen in time before the cane toad further destroys existing diversity.