Estimating the benefit of quarantine: eradicating invasive cane toads from islands

Adam S. Smart, Reid Tingley, Ben L. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Islands are increasingly used to protect endangered populations from the negative impacts of invasive spicies. Quarantine efforts on islands are likely to be undervalued in circumstances in which a failure incurs non-economic costs. One approach to ascribe monetary value to such efforts is by modeling the expense of restoring a system to its former state. Using field-based removal experiments on two different islands off northern Australia separated by > 400 km, we estimate cane toad densities, detection probabilities, and the resulting effort needed to eradicate toads from an island. We use these estimates to conservatively evaluate the financial benefit of cane toad quarantine across offshore islands prioritized for conservation management by the Australian federal government. We calculate density as animals per km of freshwater shoreline, and find striking concordance of density estimates across our two island study sites: a mean density of 352 [289, 466] adult toads per kilometre on one island, and a density of 341 [298, 390] on the second. Detection probability differed between our two study islands (Horan Island: 0.1 [0.07, 0.13]; Indian Island: 0.27 [0.22, 0.33]). Using a removal model and the financial costs incurred during toad removal, we estimate that eradicating cane toads would, on average, cost between $22 487 [$14 691, $34 480] (based on Horan Island) and $39 724 [$22 069, $64 001] AUD (Indian Island) per km of available freshwater shoreline. We estimate the remaining value of toad quarantine across islands that have been prioritized for conservation benefit within the toads’ predicted range, and find the net value of quarantine efforts to be $43.4 [28.4-66.6] – $76.7 [42.6-123.6] M depending on which island dataset is used to calibrate the model. We conservatively estimate the potential value of a mainland cane toad containment strategy – to prevent the spread of toads into the Pilbara Bioregion – to be $80 [52.6-123.4] – $142 [79.0-229.0] M. We present a modeling framework that can be used to estimate the value of preventative management, via estimating the length and cost of an eradication program. Our analyses suggest that there is substantial economic value in cane toad quarantine efforts across Australian offshore islands and in a proposed mainland containment strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-136
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Cane Toad
  • density
  • detection probability
  • eradication
  • islands
  • quarantine

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