A new report warns urgent federal and state government funding is needed to stop the spread of invasive, acid-spraying yellow crazy ants in Townsville.
“We are at a critical point in dealing with this serious agricultural and environmental threat,” Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said today.
“If emergency funds are not allocated shortly, eradicating yellow crazy ants from the Townsville region will become extremely complex and difficult, and North Queensland farmers, businesses and our environment will suffer.
“Eradication efforts to date, while good at Nome, are struggling to contain the spread of this dangerous ant, listed as one of 100 of the world’s worst invasive species.
“Since the Newman government halted state eradication funding in 2012, the Townsville City Council has been left to deal with the problem on its own without adequate resources.”
The council has coordinated control efforts, focused on the outer suburb of Nome, where yellow crazy ants have not been detected for more than a year, but four other infestations need urgent attention.
Three infestations, at Douglas, Mount St John and Black River, need a rapid ground survey to confirm the extent of the infestation and at least three rounds of treatment with ant bait.
The latest infestation at Alligator Creek was found by Invasive Species Council community taskforce staff in June and the area boundaries still need mapping.
“Untreated, the ants will slowly expand as well as spread to new areas by accidental human-assisted movement. A new infestation was found last year at Shute Harbour in the Whitsundays, which genetic testing confirmed is related to the Townsville infestations,” Mr Cox said.
“At risk from the five yellow crazy ant infestations covering about 900 hectares are the Town Common wetlands, the southern end of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, habitat of critically endangered species such as the Gulbaru gecko and frogs, lizards and other unique species only found at Mt Elliot, a wildlife hotspot in Bowling Green Bay National Park.”
The report was prepared following a roundtable meeting of yellow crazy ant experts held late last year.
The report makes four recommendations:
- Implement a fully-funded eradication program modelled on the Wet Tropics Management Authority’s Yellow Crazy Ant Eradication Program at Cairns.
- Secure at least $3.24 million per year over the next ten years for full eradication and $110,000 for establishment costs, creating 15 full time and 20-30 casual jobs.
- In the absence of full funding, carry out active management of known high risk infestations to limit spread until funding is secured.
- Alert local, state and federal governments of the seriousness of the situation and urgently request their support for full eradication.
The Invasive Species Council has written to Queensland and federal environment and agriculture ministers seeking emergency funding.