One of the world’s worst invasive species could spread into a wet tropics world heritage area in Australia unless there is urgent intervention from the Queensland state and federal governments, conservationists said.
Yellow crazy ants, which spit formic acid and can form supercolonies that overwhelm native species, have long been an issue in the country’s north, including in Cairns, where they have encroached on the world heritage area.
Now a task force working for the Australian Invasive Species Council has discovered a new infestation near Alligator Creek in Townsville, less than 5km from protected parklands known for species not found anywhere else.
The organization last month wrote to Australian Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley and Queensland Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner, asking them to jointly fund a program to manage or eradicate the pest.
Council chief executive officer Andrew Cox wrote that significant conservation areas were at risk due to complacency from governments and a lack of resources.
“It’s getting more urgent,” Cox said. “We need movement controls in place, but they don’t have any in Townsville because they don’t have the resources.”
Cox said that one colony, near the residential area of Nome, was under control, but three others were expanding with little management over the past year.
The new site near Alligator Creek is 4.5km from the Mount Elliot section of the Bowling Green Bay National Park, which Cox said was an area with “exceptional species endemism and is a critical climate refuge.”
The council said that significant work had been done to manage the feral pest around Cairns.
However, funding cuts had left the Townsville City Council “picking up the slack” in the absence of more support.
“They’re limping along,” Cox said. “We’re saying they need A$3 million [US$2.13 million] a year, shared equally between the state and federal governments.”
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