National survey results reveal invasive species rank as greatest threat to Australia's native plants and animals

Feral Herald |

A national survey of conservation, government and landcare groups in Australia has revealed that weeds, invasive animals, and ‘all invasive species’ rank just above habitat loss as the greatest threats to the country’s native plants and animals.
The survey was carried out over eight weeks across a wide range of conservation, government and Landcare groups, asking respondents to rank threats ‘putting at risk the conservation of Australia’s native plants and animals’.
It was aimed at building a better picture of the work tens of thousands of Australians carry out, often for free, to battle weeds, feral animals and other invasive threats to the environment.
Almost 94% of respondents rated invasive animals as either a ‘very high’ or ‘high’ threat to Australia’s native plants and animals, nearly 93% rated ‘weeds’ and ‘all invasive species’ in those two highest categories, while just under 92% rated habitat loss as either a ‘very high’ or ‘high’ threat.
The ‘combination of climate change and invasive species’ rated just over 88 per cent.
Fire ranked the lowest, followed by climate change.
Percentage of respondents rating threats to Australia’s native plants & animals as ‘high’ or ‘very high’
Percentage of respondents rating threats to Australia’s native plants & animals as ‘high’ or ‘very high’

Which issues are you tackling?

The overwhelming majority of those surveyed are tackling weed problems (92.2%), and just over half are working on invasive animals issues.
Surprisingly, just 6 per cent said they are working on invasive marine problems, and 12 per cent are tackling invasive diseases.
Both a lack of funding and general awareness among the Australian public about how invasive species are harming our native plants and animals are proving the greatest obstacles to tackling invasive species.
More than half of respondents blamed a lack of strong laws and policies for hampering their organisation’s ability to combat invasive species. Finding volunteers is also a problem.

Which invasive species threats does your organisation work on?What’s needed from government?

Wide ranging answers were given for what governments at local, state and federal levels could be doing better to tackle invasive species, including:

  • Fund massive control and eradication programs to knock back feral populations of rabbits, cats, foxes, deer, cane toads etc.
  • Approach invasive species in the same style of co-ordination as bushfire control, with a centralised body and funding, with well co-ordinated paid and volunteer actions.
  • Awareness campaigns.
  • Ban the importation of new pasture grasses.
  • Make industry contribute to off-farm impacts.
  • Research biological controls for rampant escapees.
  • Ban all weed species from importation and distribution.
  • Ban cats in sensitive areas and control them elsewhere.
  • Employ and train more people to tackle the issues.
  • Enforce declared plant legislation at the landholder level.

The survey also revealed the huge levels of both volunteer and paid hours being put into tackling invasive species in Australia. This information shows both the high cost of tackling invasive species and the interest in the community in contributing to control efforts.

Who completed the survey?

More than a thousand groups, including small and large conservation groups, Bushcare, Landcare and NRM groups, as well as local councils and Friends of groups, were contacted as part of the survey.
Just over 800 completed the survey and represented a broad cross-section of organisations working on invasive species problems in this country including Landcare and Coastcare groups, bush regenerators, NRM bodies, environmental consultants, government agencies and research organisations.
The survey results will be used to create an Australian database of groups working on these issues, and to help us better share information on current invasive species threats and the opportunities for improving laws and policies.
The Invasive Species Council would like to thank the Ian Potter Foundation for its generous support in making this project possible.

Share this post


Other posts

Email Updates

Sign up for our ebulletin the the Feral Herald and regular campaign updates.

Recent Stories


Help protect NSW!

Our expert team has written a list of policy asks detailing exactly what the next NSW government needs to do to stamp out some of the worst invasive species impacts across the state. But they will only become a reality if every key political candidate at the 2023 NSW state election hears about it from you!

Dear National Deer Management Coordinator,

Please accept this as a submission to the National Feral Deer Action Plan.

[Your personalised message will appear here] 

I am very concerned about the spread of deer and am pleased that a national plan has finally been developed. Without urgent action, funding and commitment from all levels of government it is clear that feral deer will continue to spread and damage our environment.

The feral deer population in Australia is growing rapidly and spreading across the country, damaging our natural environment, causing havoc for farmers and foresters and threatening public safety. Unlike much of the world where deer are native, our plants and wildlife haven’t evolved to deal with these heavy hard hooved animals with a voracious appetite.
With no natural predators and an ability to adapt to almost all environments, they could occupy almost all of Australia unless stopped. Despite this, state and territory governments have been slow to respond and in Victoria and Tasmania they are still protected by law for the enjoyment of hunters.

This plan should be adopted by all governments but must also be underpinned by dedicated funding and clear responsibilities. A plan without funding or accountability is a plan that will fail and Australia cannot afford for this to fail.

In order to prevent the spread of feral deer and reduce their impact on our native wildlife, ecosystems and agriculture, I ask that the following recommendations be adopted for the final National Feral Deer Action Plan:

1. All federal, state and territory governments should adopt the National Feral Deer Action Plan and declare feral deer to be a priority pest animal species.

2. All federal, state and territory governments should commit to:

  • Contain deer to the existing large population areas.
  • Reduce and eradicate smaller and isolated populations.
  • Protect important environmental assets such as world and national heritage areas.
  • Develop and fund regional plans and strategies to manage deer populations which involve land managers across all tenures.

3. In order to drive action and the success of this plan, there should be dedicated Commonwealth funding and support for:

  • A permanent national feral deer coordinator position.
  • A permanent federal feral deer action committee with representatives from the commonwealth and state and territory governments and the environmental and agricultural sectors.
  • An ongoing public education campaign on feral deer.
  • A network of regional feral deer coordinators to drive local action across tenures.

4. The expected outcomes for the plan need to be more ambitious, with clear interim targets including:

  • Within one year, all States and Territories should have in place arrangements to implement the National Feral Deer Action Plan, including allocating dedicated funding for implementation.
  • Within one year, feral deer management plans should be developed for key environmental assets of national significance, including the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the Greater Blue Mountains, the Australian Alps, the Gondwana Rainforests and the Wet Tropics of Queensland.
  • Within five years coordinated landscape scale management should be in place where land owners, land managers, government and community are demonstrably working together.

5. A national feral deer containment map with three zones should be adopted. It should be more ambitious than the zone map in the current draft plan and there should be greater clarity in the naming of the zones. Improvements that should be adopted include:

  • Renaming the zones to better reflect the management intention to ‘Containment Zone 1’ (the current large population zone), ‘Containment Buffer Zone 2’ (the current buffer zone) and ‘Eradication and prevention Zone 3’ (the current small isolated population zone).
  • The NSW northern rivers area should be in the eradication and prevention zone as there are few feral deer currently in this region and eradicating isolated populations and preventing spread into this area is still possible.
  • The whole of South Australia should be in the eradication and prevention zone as eradication is the goal of the SA Government.
  • The Tasmanian region in the containment zone should be smaller to reflect greater ambition and potential for eradication of deer populations.
  • In eastern Victoria areas such as Wilson’s Promontory, Westernport islands and the Mornington Peninsula should be in the eradication and prevention zone.

6. There should be consistent laws and regulations across all states and territories that:

  • Recognise feral deer as a pest animal and treat them as such.
  • Establish a clear responsibility for all landholders and managers to be involved in feral deer control programs.
  • Set clear penalties to stop the wilful or negligent release of feral deer.
  • Prevent new deer farms in areas where no feral deer are present and phase out all deer farms in the eradication and prevention zone.
  • Enable enforcement of compliance, including on government land.

I support the follow principles being adopted in the final National Feral Deer Action Plan:

  • Feral deer are a pest and should be treated as such on all tenures, except on approved deer farms.
  • Federal, state and territory governments have a responsibility to fund the outcomes under this plan.
  • All land managers in areas where feral deer are present have a responsibility to be involved in feral deer control programs.
  • The focus of management efforts should be on eradication of isolated, satellite populations, protection of key environmental assets currently impacted and stopping the spread to new regions.
  • Feral deer control should be undertaken humanely, safely and professionally according to agreed protocols and all tools which meet this criteria should be adopted, including aerial control.
  • Funding for coordination, regional planning and community engagement is necessary for effective feral deer management.
  • Ongoing management and follow up control efforts are required to achieve long lasting results.
  • Rules and regulations should be consistent across jurisdictions and land tenures.
  • Recreational hunting is not an effective strategy for feral deer control and should not be relied upon.
[Your name]
[Your email address]
[Your suburb], [Your state]