Unwelcome immigrants in Australia

Continuing my catch up of articles that have appeared in Australia and New Zealand magazine, here is a digital version of the story that appeared in the January 2014 edition.

I’m okay, I’ve got the magazine, so whilst I read mine from here…

ANZ Jan 2014…you can read it for free here…

Unwelcome immigrants

It was some time ago when I wrote an article here about Australia’s “other” wildlife. I spoke of basking water dragons, possums popping up, kookaburras laughing like drains and kangaroos skipping.

Today though, I’m going to talk about Australia’s “other other” wildlife; the wildlife we shouldn’t have. It’s wildlife that moved to Australia from other countries. These are the four most loathsome of them all in my short countdown of critters Australia doesn’t want.

Number 4

rabbitIn at number four and cutest of the bunch, it’s the foot thumping floppy eared rabbit. The carrot crunching popular UK pet was first introduced into this country in 1859 by a Pom who wanted to breed them so he could shoot them. Problem is the rabbits were much better at breeding than he was at shooting.

Now we have millions of them chomping through our vegetation causing soil erosion, plant extinction and the death and near extinction of some of our native animals, in particular our ‘rabbit’ equivalent, the bilby.

Number 3

Wild Camels in Central AustraliaAt number three we have the strangest; it’s the camel, brought here in the 1800s. They were used for transport but with the invention of the car and the train were no longer needed. So they were simply set free to fend for themselves, something they turned out to be very good at.

With up to a million now roaming the outback, we have the largest feral camel population of any country in the world. A thirsty camel can drink 200 litres of water in three minutes! That is definitely a problem for those in the outback. Not all camels are bad though, some have jobs, either as actors in nativity plays or giving kids rides at fetes.

Number 2

Fire Ants

Image courtesy of Vishal R

In second place and possibly the nastiest of them all is the Red Imported Fire Ant. It’s a strange name really, because unlike our previous two pests who were imported, this one wasn’t.

These things are illegal immigrants and they arrived by boat in 2001, probably from South America somewhere. Since then Biosecurity Queensland have spent around $270 million trying to confine and eradicate this pest before it spreads too far. These things attack quickly in numbers delivering multiple stings which burn like fire and like the other pests, they also destroy the environment.

Number 1

cane-toadIn first place and easily the ugliest of them all is the cane toad. This critter was virtually given a visa to enter the country by the Australian Government. They wanted these cane toads to help control the cane beetle.

Big mistake!

Cane toads are poisonous at every stage of their lives, from eggs, to tadpoles to a fully grown ugly wart infested toad. Trouble is, instead of simply poisoning the cane beetle as was the plan, they are poisoning all manner of wildlife here and are quite simply the greatest ecological threat Australia has seen.

Fear not though, we have another ant; it’s the meat eat ant. It’s immune to the cane toad’s toxins and it loves eating cane toad eggs. A cane toad can produce between 10,000 and 30,000 eggs at a time, a fair feast for those ants. So the latest plan is to get those meat eating ants to control the cane toads that were brought in to control the cane beetle. What can possibly go wrong?

Want to know more?

See…

And finally…

And with that, I’ll wish you all a great Easter break if that’s something you celebrate, it’s certainly something I do. So I’ll be back next week when it’s all over.

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Shane John Backx June 10, 2014, 7:09 am | Link

    Tilapia is another fish species threatening our inland waterways. Its an escaped aquarium fish that’s starting to run rampant in Sthn Qld and Nthn NSW.

    • BobinOz June 10, 2014, 4:30 pm | Link

      It seems our waterways are teeming with unwanted fish, I got this from http://www.sweetwaterfishing.com.au/tilapia.htm

      List of noxious fish in Queensland.
      1- Carp
      2- Piranhas
      3- Tilapia
      4- Walking Catfish
      5- Bluegill
      6- Electric Eel
      7- Grass Carp
      8- Largemouth Bass
      9- Mosquitofish
      10- Nile Perch (alive only)
      11- Parasitic Catfish
      12- Pike Cichlid
      13- Snakehead
      14- Tiger Shovelnose Catfish
      15- Tigerfish
      16- Chinese Weather Loach

  • djmcbell April 17, 2014, 12:23 am | Link

    The story of the cane toad (and the meat eat ant) reminds me of the old woman who swallowed a fly, then a spider to catch the fly, then a mouse to catch the spider, then a cat, then a dog… presumably a dog warden was next, followed by a policeman, followed by a rottweiler? Then do we go back to the dog warden?

    • BobinOz April 17, 2014, 2:29 pm | Link

      Exactly. Where will it all end?

    • OKJ June 7, 2014, 1:05 am | Link

      I hear ya. But the thing about the meat ant is that unlike most other bio controls we have tried to use to fix our messes, the meat ant is actually a native part of the Australian environment which means that the species that the toad is currently threatening have evolved in its presence and have developed defenses and behaviors to avoid the ants. That’s not to say that encouraging the ants to live near where cane toads breed won’t have any repercussions, but it’s definitely not as reckless as trying to introduce another nonnative species.

      • BobinOz June 9, 2014, 11:34 pm | Link

        That’s a very good point OKJ, and you are absolutely right, if the meat ant can get us out of this fix it would actually be the perfect solution. Encouraging the ants to live close to where cane toads breed isn’t really messing with our ecosystem, it’s not like introducing something new.

        So it would be great if it worked, unfortunately the story doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere. It’s been a long time since I wrote this post, I’m not aware of any progress with this scheme, maybe I need to try and find out what’s happening.

        Meanwhile, we still have an ever increasing cane toad population.

  • Shane April 16, 2014, 8:21 pm | Link

    To that list you can add the European Carp, that has decimated our inland freshwater rivers and lakes.

    • BobinOz April 17, 2014, 2:27 pm | Link

      European Carp? Who invited them! I’ve not been aware of that problem, I’ll look into it and probably write a post. I assume they are gobbling up our underwater fauna and causing death to our native freshwater inhabitants?

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