Ant supercolonies risk turning Australia into environmental basketcase

Media Release |

Invading ant supercolonies are threatening to turn Australia into an environmental, agricultural and social basketcase, the Invasive Species Council warned today.

“If Australia fails to tackle growing supercolonies of red imported fire ants in Queensland their presence in our cities and rural areas will radically alter our way of life,” the council’s CEO Andrew Cox said today.

“These supercolonies could threaten nearly all aspects of agricultural life in Australia, fundamentally change our easy-going outdoor lifestyle and irrevocably transform our landscapes.

“In the southern US state of Texas people in fire-ant infested areas are talking about an ecological meltdown. They are too afraid to have picnics on the grass, go barefoot, or even stand in one place without constantly worrying about fire ants swarming up their legs and stinging them multiple times.”

The fears follow warnings published today in The Australian by biologist and author Tim Low who says fire ants could eventually invade 90 per cent of urban Australia.

“In the US they cause such unlikely problems as fires, potholes, computer failures, crop losses and blindings of farm animals. More than 80 people have died from the stings, mainly of anaphylactic shock,” he says.

Mr Low says other nasty ants have invaded Australia in recent years, including electric ants, which attack people in their swimming pools, and yellow crazy ants, which have killed more than 10 million red land crabs and hastened the extinction of a bat and lizard species on Christmas Island.

It is now feared that if yellow crazy ants south of Cairns are not stopped the devastation they have wrought on Christmas Island could be replicated across across large areas of Australia..

“Australia has already suffered too much from past mistakes by allowing the fox, rabbit and cane toad to get out of control,” Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said.

“We have to learn from past mistakes and eradicate dangerous new invasive species before they drive new waves of extinctions.”

The Australian Parliament will put in place new laws to stop dangerous invasive species from entering the country and threatening native plants and wildlife, human health and agriculture.

The new laws will replace the Quarantine Act 1908, and are expected to be passed by the Senate in May or June 2015.

The historic bill will determine whether or not Australia is properly protected from invasion by dangerous new weeds, feral animals and other harmful species such as red imported fire ants.

The Invasive Species Council is calling on Labor and Senate cross-benchers to improve the Biosecurity Bill before it is passed into law.

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Contact

Andrew Cox on 0438 588 040

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