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INVASIVE ANTS ‘OUT OF CONTROL’ IN TOWNSVILLE

Yellow crazy ant numbers are growing exponentially in Townsville due to a lack of funding at city council level.

In the latest update from the Invasive Species Council, yellow crazy ants are reported to be spreading rapidly in areas around Townsville. The infestations are so severe in the region they are now entering people’s homes and backyards and decimating local wildlife.

“Yellow crazy ants are one of the world’s worst invasive species. They attack prey by spraying acid, which makes them such an effective killer. They can literally turn an entire forest silent by wiping out the majority of small animals that live there,” said Invasive Species Council conservation director James Trezise.

“The infestations around Townsville are out of control and likely much larger than currently mapped. We’ve seen these invasive ants entering homes, taking over backyards and impacting people’s quality of life. It is vital that we get these infestations under control and eradicated, not only to safeguard the environment but also to protect the community and the regional economy.”

At present, there is no state or federal government support to control or eradicate the dangerous invasive species. However on May 13, Labor announced that it would dedicate $24.8 million to tackle yellow crazy ant infestations in the Cairns and Townsville regions if it wins the next federal election, which would bring much-needed relief to northern Queensland. The funding is part of a broader environment package announced by Labor, including the establishment of a Saving Native Species Program and 1,000 Landcare rangers.

“Labor’s announcement is a potential game-changer for Townsville, an infestation that has been without adequate funding since the Queensland Government abandoned its eradication program in 2012,” commented Mr Trezise.

Although the state and federal governments have been funding a yellow crazy ant program in Cairns, no funding has been forthcoming for Townsville. Biosecurity Queensland withdrew funding in 2012 and in 2014 Townsville City Council took over responsibility for implementing control measures. But a lack of resources means that despite its best efforts, attempts to tackle such widespread infestation look set to fail.

Mr Trezise believes that an eradication program at federal and state level is the only way to prevent ecological disaster, including the extinction of critically endangered endemic species such as the Mount Elliot nursery frog. If yellow crazy ants continue to spread throughout the region there will likely be significant impacts on the tourism and agriculture sectors, as well as the wider economy.