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Asian Common Toad Can Damage Madagascar Wildlife, Researchers Say

May 31, 2014 03:50 AM EDT

Asian common toad is threatening the survival of the native species of Madagascar, scientists warn.

Jonathan Kolby of Australia's James Cook University, together with 11 other researchers, has urged the Madagascar government to take steps against the invasion of the Asian common toads (Duttaphrynus melanostictus). A large relative of this toad-species has already devastated wildlife in Australia.

The scientists wrote an open letter in the journal Nature.

"It's worrying because Madagascar has amazing endemic biodiversity - plants, animals and amphibians that are found nowhere else. And this one species has the propensity to damage that," said Jonathan Kolby, of James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, according to BBC.

Snakes that eat these toads are especially at risk of poisoning. The invasive creatures also carry deadly disease, which could threaten several species of lemurs and birds.

The toads were found in Toamasina, the African country's largest seaport, in March. Scientists suspect that shipping containers might have brought the creatures to the Indian Ocean island country.

According to researchers, the toads are taking advantage of the "ideal climate" of Madagascar to establish themselves.

"They are a very hardy and adaptable species," said Kolby, according to BBC."They can handle a long ride on the ocean in a container, and then hop out wherever they end up. And this is most likely how they got there."

Cane toads (Rhinella marina), a relative of the Asian common toad, are an invasive species in Australia. These toads were introduced in Australia back in 1935 to control pest population. Since then, these hardy creatures have established themselves as an invasive species and have threatened survival of native organisms.

 Scientists believe that Madagascar wildlife is facing a similar crisis due the presence of Asian common toad.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers the Asian common toad as a species of "Least Concern." The population of these creatures is on the rise in several parts of the world.

Scientists involved in the latest open letter said that these toads will soon out-compete native fauna and will cause large-scale ecological devastation.

"Time is short, so we are issuing an urgent call to the conservation community and governments to prevent an ecological disaster," Kolby told Nature.

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