The Government has pledged funds to assist with the eradication of invasive ant species, but not all programs received the funding they were hoping for.
As part of the federal budget presented in late March, the Australian government announced that $28.8 million in funding would be assigned to three ant eradication programs. The three programs receiving funding target the red imported re ant, the yellow crazy ant and the Argentine ant.
Of the $28.8 million, $18.3 million was for the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program. These funds are part of a $411 million, ten-year program begun in 2017 to eradicate RIFA from their stronghold in southeast Queensland. The program has already eradicated these ants from 8,300 hectares near the Port of Brisbane, making it the world’s largest ant eradication to date. RIFA present a significant economic threat to the country – an estimated $1.65 billion impact on agriculture and a variety of other industries – if the species is left to encroach further.
The Yellow Crazy Ant Eradication Program was allocated $9.2 million over three years, which will target the ant on Christmas Island and also in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area in Queensland. The ants (main picture, above) present a particular threat to fruit trees and sugar cane, as well as to tourism. However, this level of funding is only half of the amount required and the Wet Tropics Management Authority who manages the program will be reliant on the state government to provide the remainder of the funds.
The remaining $1.3 million was allocated to the Argentine Ant Eradication Strategy on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific. Argentine ants have invaded and become established in Western Australia and parts of southern Australia, yet the population on Norfolk Island is still considered small enough to be eradicable.
However, no funding was provided for the National Electric Ant Eradication Program, which is trying to close out eradication of the electric ant in Cairns. According to Lori Lach, Associate Professor at James Cook University, activity to the end of 2017 reduced numbers down to the last 1%, but eliminating the final infestations – the eradication ‘end-game’ – is labour intensive, as it focuses on detection. Failure to achieve the end-game will allow populations to rebound, thus wasting money spent to date.