Pest-eating toads in Indonesia save cocoa supply

September 19th, 2010 - 11:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Goettingen (Germany), Sep 19 (DPA) The world’s supply of chocolate depends partly on hard work by toads in Indonesia, a group of German and Australian agriculture scientists have discovered.
The toads like to dine on an invasive pest, the yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes). The non-native ants, each about 4 mm long, have overrun Indonesian cocoa plantations, driving out good ants which help protect the cocoa plants from disease.

Farmers will now be trained to encourage the bulgy-eyed Sulawesian toad (Ingerophrynus celebensis), an Indonesian native, to eat the ants and bring the ecosystem back into balance. Indonesia is the world’s third-largest exporter of cocoa.

A team from the universities of Goettingen in Germany and Adelaide in Australia have just published the finding in the British Royal Society’s journal Proceedings. They discovered that the toads are free pest-control workers because they love to eat yellow crazy ants.

Teja Tscharntke, a German scientist, said Sunday the discovery of the ecological value of the toads was good news, because populations of amphibians have been plunging worldwide as rain forests disappear.

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