Our Work

Weeds, pest animals and environmental diseases are a massive threat to Australia's native plants and animals. To protect nature we must tackle invasive species.

Our Work  |  Photo: Patrick Kavanagh

Protecting nature

Try and imagine an advertising campaign promoting Australia to the world that doesn’t feature our stunning beaches, tropical rainforests or a cuddly koala.

Almost impossible, isn’t it? That’s because the places we love and the wildlife they protect are central to what makes Australia unique in the world. It’s why so many tourists visit our country, it’s why we love Australia so much.

But our special places and native wildlife are constantly under threat from outside forces, dangerous new invasive species like fire ants that are infiltrating our borders. Put simply, we are not doing enough to keep these environmental invaders from our doors.

Australia’s environmental border security – our biosecurity system – is failing us. Most of the time it keeps out new pests and diseases, but occasionally something slips through, and the consequences can be disastrous.

That’s why we’ve launched Protect Australia, our new campaign to fix the country’s leaky environmental borders and keep dangerous new environmental pests and diseases out.

Invasion timeline

As long as Australia has weak biosecurity laws dangerous new environmental invaders will continue to steal into our country. They come in many forms, as weedy garden species, hidden in cargo ships or even brought in and sold as 'pets'.

Our case studies of dangerous invasive species that have made it into Australia or are likely to arrive illustrate the need for changes in how Australia prevents the establishment of new invasive species.

Russian roulette

Every plane that arrives in Australia, every ship that docks at our ports, every passenger that enters our country could be carrying a dangerous new invasive species. It’s how fire ants got in and it’s a sure bet that’s how future invaders will make it past our borders.

In the past 17 years alone we know of at least 48 potentially dangerous invasive species that have evaded our border controls. They include fire ants, myrtle rust, the Asian black-spined toad and red-eared slider turtle.

Take a look at our invasion timeline for a taste of what’s snuck into Australia since 2000. We’ve also released case studies detailing the environmental and other impacts of 14 invasive species that have breached Australia’s borders.

It’s bad enough these dangerous invaders have made it into Australia, but we have just as much to fear from other invasive species yet to breach our borders.

Rock snot: This freshwater algae can form a think brown layer that smothers the bottom of streams or lakes. New Zealand failed to keep it out and is now paying the price. We don’t want rock snot in Australia.

Invasive ants: They can form super-colonies, monopolise food and outcompete or destroy local ants. In Australia we have already spent $340 million trying to eradicate fire ants, but there are several other ant species to be feared. Raspberry crazy ants, for example, form extraordinarily dense populations. In the southern USA they have even displaced invasive red fire ants.

Wattle and eucalypt diseases: We already have myrtle rust, which infects hundreds of myrtaceae species, but we are also at great risk of accidentally importing more pathogens that have adapted to our eucalypts and wattles grown overseas.

Wildlife diseases: There are many wildlife pathogens that could invade Australia. Avian malaria caused the extinction of half of Hawaii’s native bird species. New strains could evade natural defences and cause large-scale death. White nose syndrome has caused massive declines in cave hibernating bats in the US.

Rampant weeds: Although new weed species cannot be introduced legally into Australia, people can and do easily import them illegally through online trading sites. They could include new cactuses and grasses for example.

Black-spined toad: Like the cane toad, it is potentially toxic to predators. It competes with native frogs and other wildlife and could introduce new diseases.  It has the potential to be more damaging than the cane toad.

What you can do

Join us and ask our political leaders to take a pledge to Protect the Nature of Australia from invasive species.

Can you send them an urgent email today?

Why we must Protect Australia

A recent study put the value of Australia natural wealth at $3.4 trillion(1). That’s the estimated value of the benefits that ecosystems provide to humans, including the provision of natural resources, clean air and water and cultural and support services.

Dangerous invasive species can threaten one or more of these assets.

Globalisation, migration, climate change, growing tourism and freight all escalate the risks of dangerous new species making it to Australia.

The number of cargo arrivals alone is forecast to increase more than 70% by 2025, but biosecurity funding is not keeping pace with these rapid global changes.

The cost of new incursions into Australia could be catastrophic. Horse flu cost us more than $332 million, fire ants have already cost us $350 million and will cost another $411 million over next ten years.

A large-scale foot and mouth disease outbreak could cost as much as $50 billion.

We can no longer afford to treat environmental biosecurity like a game of Russian roulette, because when it goes wrong, it goes catastrophically wrong.

More Info


  1. Kubiszewski et. al. 2017. The future value of ecosystem services: Global scenarios and national implications. Ecosystem Services. Vol. 26. pp 289-301.

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]