Native and Alien Pests in Australia

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In Australia and around the world, pest animals are a significant threat to health and properties. In fact, having a low population density, Australia could have more pests per head than any other country in the world. Some of the pests that are prevalent in the continent are termites, ants, fleas, bedbugs, wasps, cockroaches, millipedes, rats, mice, spiders, birds and possums. While some of the pests are native animals, others are aliens that came aboard ships carrying European settlers only a few centuries ago. The imported animals have adapted to the Australian climate so well that they are putting at risk the very survival of the native flora and fauna.

Both the federal and state governments have not achieved much success so far despite many attempts at pest control. In fact, alien pests are still spreading, and even some native animals have turned into pests because of the loss of their natural habitat. Some of the non-native animals that have been placed under the category of the most damaging pests are European rabbits, rats, mice, feral cats, dingoes, feral goats, can toads and feral pigs. Some of the destructive indigenous pests are ants, termites, wasps, bedbugs, fleas, cockroaches, centipedes, millipedes and snakes. Even the country’s flagship marsupials like opossums, kangaroos and wombats have begun to be viewed as pests. According to Pest Animal Control Cooperative Research Centre, all the native and non-native pests as a whole, can damage properties and infrastructure amounting to more than $720 million annually.

Non-native pests are usually accused of spoiling the pasture that farm animals need to graze on. Rabbits and feral goats are pilfering and damaging the crops in the fields; rats, mice and rabbits, raiding homes and garbage bins for food; foxes and feral pigs frightening and preying on domestic animals. While foxes and dingoes are damaging properties and infrastructures and rats, mice and feral pigs are carrying diseases They are also charged with driving many of Australia’s original animals to extinction, although humans may have been the bigger culprit. Australian mammals constitute about half of all the animals that have died out in the past 200 years.

Furthermore, other types of indigenous pests are accused of being a nuisance (ants, millipedes, wasps and spiders), preying on human blood (fleas, bedbugs), damaging properties and infrastructure (ants, termites, possums and kangaroos) and creating motor vehicle accidents (possums and kangaroos). Among the native pests, the most destructive are the termites because they can literally chew up a house hollow once they make their way into it. Termites alone damage properties and infrastructure worth millions of dollars. Animals like possums, kangaroos and wombats have become an irritant chiefly because of the expansion of human settlement in their territory. They create damage to electrical and other equipment, fences and other infrastructure, and crops. However, they cannot be trapped and removed or killed as they are protected by the law.

Traditional methods of pest control, such as hunting, trapping, poisoning and burning have not be so successful because pests are resilient, can develop resistance to drugs, can adapt to almost any kind of environment, and reproduce quickly. Modern approaches involve repelling pests and keeping them away rather than destroying them which has been found to be practically impossible. The methods include fencing, scaring them away with electrical and other scare devices, using electrical and chemical repellents, eliminating sources of food, and eliminating all possible shelter and hiding places.

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