Asian common toads are threatening species in Madagascar
Asian common toads are threatening species in Madagascar. Wikimedia Commons

Madagascar's wildlife is on the verge of an 'ecological disaster' due to an invasion of toxic toads.

Asian common toads are running rife on the island after supposedly being transported via shipping containers from south-east Asia. Snakes, lemurs and endemic birds are among the iconic species at risk.

The toads could also contaminate drinking water and transmit parasites to humans.

Scientists are now calling for an urgent hunting programme to wipe out the toads before the situation becomes uncontrollable - including draining ponds to stop their breeding.

The amphibians could have the same devastating impact as the cane toads which wiped out several species in Australia after their introduction in 1935.

They are still rampant Down Under - with millions spread across much of the country.

The World Wildlife Fund says around 95% of Madagascar's reptiles and 92% of its mammals exist nowhere else on Earth.

In a letter to Nature magazine, 11 researchers warned that Asian common toads, or Duttaphrynus melanostictus, were spotted near Toamasina, Madagascar's largest seaport.

The females can lay 40,000 eggs a month and it is feared they will take advantage of the 'ideal resources and climate' to establish themselves.

Jonathan Kolby, a wildlife health researcher at James Cook University in Australia, and his colleagues wrote: "Time is short, so we are issuing an urgent call to the conservation community and governments to prevent an ecological disaster.

"The potential catastrophe is not just restricted to Madagascar. There is now a high dispersal risk of these toads spreading from Madagascar to other Indian Ocean islands such as the Mascarene Islands, Comoros and Seychelles."