The Department of Agriculture is calling on Western Australians to remain alert to pest species from overseas and even the eastern states of Australia. These invasive species could cause millions of dollars of damage to farmers and damage the rare and precious environment of WA.
I had a call from Marion Massan at the Department of Agriculture today. It’s funny, I don’t think many people probably are aware of the important links between agriculture and the environment, and the similar aims and concerns of people working in each field.
Marion works on the frontline of the war against pest animals in WA. She is always on guard against new invasive species entering and establishing themselves in this State.
We’ve already got plagues of rabbits, an epidemic of foxes, gangs of pigs, fleets of camels, swarms of feral bees and now an army of cane toads crossing our border in the north (to name just a few). You can find out about a range of pests in Western Australia in the excellent guide Common Seasonal Pests.
These pests have massive impacts on our native wildlife and agriculture. They cost governments, community groups and private landowners millions of dollars in control activities and lost revenue – we really don’t need to add any more to the list!
It’s Marion’s job to track down any new bird species that enter the State. They might, like starlings, fly over themselves from South Australia, or they might hitch a ride on a ship from Asia.
Perhaps even more irritatingly, they might be released by an irresponsible pet owner who has lost interest in their cage birds, or thinks they are doing them a favour by releasing them into the wild. That is how we ended up with massive flocks of rainbow lorikeets in Perth – because back in the 60s just a handful escaped or were released.
Lorikeets are beautiful birds but they belong in the Eastern States – we don’t need them competing with our Western natives, damaging fruit crops, fouling outdoor areas and causing bird-strike risk to aircraft.
Right now, the Department of Ag are pretty worried about some emerging new pest animals – such as Indian ringnecked parakeets, red-eared slider turtles, ferrets, rusa deer, house crows and Indian (or common) myna birds.
Anyone from the Eastern States (or at least 21 other countries worldwide) will tell you how much they dislike Indian mynas. These birds are so aggressive they can completely replace local native birds. I’ve even heard of them preventing other birds from nesting in holes that the mynas aren’t actually using, by filling them with rubbish.
Of course, Marion and the other biosecurity officers can’t be everywhere at once in this big State and they really rely on people calling in and reporting when they see a new bird or animal they think looks out of place.
The tricky part is that a new pest will naturally be in small numbers to start with, and while everyone knows what a rabbit looks like, could you tell an introduced house crow from an Australian raven, or identify a red-eared slider if you’ve never seen one before?
So to raise awareness of these new and emerging threatening species, the Department has developed a series of brochures called National Animal Pest Alerts. These have been designed to educate the public about the risks these emerging pests pose to agriculture, the environment and social values.
There are photos showing these species in the wild in Australia, and advice on how to distinguish them from similar looking native birds and animals. All Pest Alerts can be downloaded here.
As Harry Potter’s Professor Mad-Eye Moody would say, “Constant vigilance!”