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Presentation on theme: "FERALS IN THE CLASSROOM"— Presentation transcript:

Designed by the Institute for Applied Ecology University of Canberra Invasive Animals CRC

2 WHAT IS A PEST? A pest can be described many different ways. FERAL
EXOTIC, INTRODUCED, NON-INDIGENOUS, ALIEN INVASIVE PEST A pest can be described in many different ways. What is a feral animal? Strictly speaking a feral animal is a non-native animal that has escaped from captivity and established a self-sustaining population independent of humans. For example cats, goats, pigs and ring neck parrots can all be described as feral. Exotic, introduced and non-indigenous are words that can be used to describe an animal that is outside its natural range. Unlike feral animals, goldfish and cane toads have been deliberately released in Australia and have originated from another country. Invasive Species (IUCN definition): Invasive species are organisms (usually transported by humans) which successfully establish themselves in, and then overcome, otherwise intact, pre-existing native ecosystems. All of these descriptions are commonly used these days to describe any non-native animal that causes serious damage to human interests. What is a pest animal? Native animals can also at times cause annoyance and damage to people but the previous terms don’t apply. Therefore the term ‘pest’ is commonly used to describe any animal, including native animals, that negatively affect the environment, agriculture, industry and communities. Note: The term ‘pest’ will be used in the rest of this presentation.

3 WHAT IS A PEST? The definition of a pest – one that pesters or annoys
an animal detrimental to humans or human interests Action Name as many non-native animals as you can. Include: mammals birds amphibians reptiles fish Which is the most abundant? Note: Students are asked to name as many pest animals as they can. At this stage it is best to focus on non-native species that have been introduced to Australia. This information can either be written down individually by students or recorded on a white board as a group activity. You can start the group off by stating that there is only one amphibian that has been successfully introduced to Australia. Most students will guess the cane toad. Students are next asked - Which group has the most species? Note: The next slide has the answer.

4 84 SPECIES AND COUNTING At least 25 mammals, 20 birds, 1 amphibian, 4 reptiles and 34 fish species have established wild populations so far. released by the Perth Zoo Acclimatisation Society 1898 arrived in imported plants 1966 discovered in the Tweed River NSW 2008 released by Acclimatisation Societies 1912 Here are a few animals that have an interesting story to tell. Indian Palm Squirrel The Indian Palm Squirrel was introduced deliberately into the grounds of the Perth Zoo. Not surprisingly the squirrels ignored the zoo fences and moved into the surrounding suburbs. They have become a pest by getting into school ground bins and spreading rubbish. Flower Pot Snake About the size of a 20 cent piece, the Flower Pot Snake was probably introduced into Australian unintentionally through the overseas nursery / plant trade. The snake lives mainly in the soil of pot plants and eats the eggs of ants. They are sometimes mistaken for worms. Pearl Cichlid Pearl Cichlid have recently established populations in the Tweed River by people releasing their unwanted aquarium fish into the river. The fish is an aggressive predator and feeds by sucking up parts of the river bed with its mouth, this often dislodges and destroys aquatic plant species. Peacock Feral peacocks made headlines in Canberra recently when a wild bird was hit and killed by a car. Nearby residents who put food out for the birds held a wake for the deceased bird which attracted over 100 people and made the local news.

5 WHAT IS A PEST? A pest is a matter of opinion
It is important to note that people decide whether an animal is a pest. PEST – the fastest colonising pest animal in Australia PET – a cherished family pet AUSTRALIAN ICON – native bird species PEST – a pest who modifies unique Tasmanian habitats PEST – a serious agricultural and environmental pest A RESOURCE – worth 20 million a year to the game meat industry Many people agree that a feral rabbit is a agricultural pest, that a lyre bird is a native bird of Australia and that feral pigs cause serious environmental damage but other labels can also apply to these animals. Rabbit Alternatively – A rabbit is often viewed as a family pet that is looked after and enjoyed by many children around Australia. Lyre bird Lyre birds were introduced to Tasmania in the 1930s and 40s by well meaning scientists who predicted the Victorian population of birds would soon become extinct. Today the lyre bird causes serious damage to sensitive Tasmanian habitats by scratching through leaf litter and soil in the search for food. Feral pig No longer simply regarded as a threat to agriculture and the environment, the feral pig now also represents a source of significant income to rural communities through recreational hunting and commercial harvesting. Why would you try and eradicate a pest species if it brings income into struggling rural communities?

6 WHAT IS A PEST? A pest is a matter of opinion Red kangaroo
It is important to note that people decide whether an animal is a pest. Red kangaroo - a unique native animal - Aussie icon and tourist attraction - a pest, causing millions of dollars of damage to vehicles each year - a resource to be harvested for commercial gain - a delicious and healthy meat source - a competitor of livestock and grain production - an indigenous peoples’ totem animal - a pet Another example of an animal having changing values based on community perceptions is the kangaroo. As you can see the list is extremely varied and each opinion should be viewed as valid and not be ignored. This example shows clearly why it is often hard to successfully manage an animal when it displays pest traits especially if the community is divided in opinion.

7 WHY AM I SUCCESSFUL? now established in Tasmania FEMALE LIFESPAN
EXTENT OF ESTABLISHMENT FEMALE LIFESPAN SEXUAL MATURITY OF FEMALE OFFSPRING PER YEAR MIGRATION PATTERN DIET IS IT A PEST OVERSEAS? FIRST YEAR OF INTRODUCTION NUMBER OF INTRODUCTIONS REASON FOR INTRODUCTION now established in Tasmania 3 – 4 yrs (up to 10) 10 months 4 – 10 cubs up to 10km a day wide ranging YES The fox’s ability to adapt to a variety of conditions has made it one of the most successful pest species in Australia. It has colonised nearly all of Australia, recently including Tasmania. A female’s life span is reasonably long. A female fox can start reproducing at a young age. The number of offspring can be high. Foxes have the ability to move large distances in search of food, shelter and other foxes to mate with. A fox can eat just about anything including; small mammals, fruits and berries, birds and their eggs, amphibians, insects, reptiles, garbage and pet food. The fox was introduced into southern Victoria in 1871 for recreational hunting. Colonisation was rapid and closely linked to the spread of the rabbit. By 1893 foxes were reported in New South Wales; in 1901 in South Australia; in 1907 in Queensland; and in 1912 in Western Australia. Today the fox is one of the most widely spread feral animals in Australia. Foxes were deliberately introduced into Tasmania in 2001. 1871 multiple homesick sport

8 AM I A PEST? Which is the most effective pest?
up to 60% loss of horticulture crops Note: Students are asked to guess which bird species causes the most damage to horticultural crops. Who could it be? Silver eye – a small native bird Starling – an introduced pest Little Corella – a medium sized parrot which can group in large flocks Sparrow – an introduced bird commonly found in cities Ostrich – escapees from ostrich farms have established small populations in Australia And the answer is – The Silver eye. Birds frequently damage wine and table grapes, cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums, blueberries, apricots, apples, pears, tropical fruit, olives, tomatoes and capsicum. Losses are particularly severe when native nectar sources are unavailable. Nectar and native fruit are preferred over horticultural crops but are often in short supply due to the clearing of native vegetation. Silvereyes puncture fruit with their sharp bills, creating small diamond-shaped holes and they lap at the flesh with their brush-tipped tongues. This often attracts insects such as wasps, bees and ants and promotes the growth of fungi, yeast and other infections. Before crops start to ripen silvereyes can be important predators of insects. For example, they are known to consume large volumes of codling moth larvae (a serious pest in apple orchards).

9 FUTURE RISKS Unfortunately there is a real risk of new exotic species establishing as pests in Australia. The risk includes species already kept in captivity such as: or, animals that may be imported into Australia in the future. Can the giraffe become an established pest in Australia? YES or NO Answer: The giraffe is considered a SERIOUS THREAT There is a risk that new exotic species could establish as wild pests in Australia. When animals escape or are illegally released they can start new populations in the wild that breed and spread. Once an exotic species is widespread, eradication is virtually impossible. Ferrets are a popular domestic pet in Australia and are also used to hunt rabbits. The ferret is released down a rabbit hole and is used to flush out the rabbits into a net covering the hole (rabbiting). In New Zealand, ferrets were introduced in the 1880s as part of a rabbit control program and as a result formed the largest population of wild ferrets in the world. They currently pose a serious threat to the survival of many endangered and threatened species in New Zealand. Species kept in zoos also pose the threat of establishing as a pest if released or if they escape. A pigmy hippopotamus was discovered south of Darwin after escaping from a private zoo. The zoo had already closed down six years ago. There are several primate centres, labs and research facilities in Australia which house monkeys for scientific research. What would happen if baboons established a wild population in Australia? Note: For the second half of this slide students must complete the following – Primary students – Pest Tales, Unit 2, Unwelcome visitor Secondary students – Feral Focus, Unit 2, A risky business Giraffe Note: The answer is revealed at the end of this slide so wait until the student activity is completed to reveal. YES

10 ERADICATION The complete and permanent removal of a pest.
No pest animal has ever been eradicated from mainland Australia despite: - intensive effort - millions of dollars being spent - development of new technologies - powerful legislation the requires pests be controlled Taking action to get rid of pest animals `once and for all' by eradication is often seen as an appealing solution because it offers permanent freedom from the pest, from its harmful effects and from the recurring high costs of continuing pest animal management programs. But no well established introduced pests have been eradicated from any continent despite numerous attempts. Eradication is an intense, expensive and at times controversial process involving community, national and government support. This is not to say that one day we will have the necessary means and technologies to eradicate pest species from Australia, but until that time comes we need to face the facts and recognise that eradiation is currently not the solution to Australia’s pest animal problem.

11 RUN RABBIT RUN Past and present methods of eradicating rabbits include: poison baiting (ground and aerial) trapping (cage) rabbit proof fencing shooting ferreting hunting snaring scaring (using noise and visual disturbances) releasing rabbit predators such as foxes fumigating warrens destruction of warrens using rippers and ploughs blasting of warrens using explosives biological control using myxomatosis biological control using Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease virus (also known as calicivirus) introduction of imported fleas to encourage the spread of disease The European rabbit originated in Spain and southern France and domesticated rabbits arrived in Australia with the first fleet. The first feral populations were in south-eastern Tasmania where they numbered in the thousands on some estates by The first person to introduce rabbits to mainland Australia was Thomas Austin, a member of the Victorian Acclimatisation Society and enthusiastic game hunter. 24 rabbits were brought from England onto his property 'Barwon Park', near Geelong, in By 1886 rabbits had spread north as far as the Queensland - New South Wales border and by 1900 they had reached Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The rate of spread of the rabbit in Australia was the fastest of any colonising mammal anywhere in the world. In the past, Australians have attempted many methods of controlling rabbit numbers. Some techniques have greatly reduced rabbit numbers others have had limited success or have even contributed to the pest problem. Do you think this rabbit might just be laughing at us?

SIX requirements for successful eradication The control operation can remove pests faster than they can reproduce. Re-invasion can be prevented. The entire population is targeted by the control operation. The socio-political environment support eradication. The benefits of the eradication program justify the cost. Animals can be detected at very low densities. These six points show why it is so hard to eradicate a pest animal species from mainland Australia. If the removal rate does not exceed the rate of replacement then eradication will not be achieved. This may appear simple to do, but sometimes the pest animal is able to increase its reproduction due to the increase in available food and as the number of pest animals decline it takes more time and expense to locate and remove individual animals. It is estimated that it will cost over 25 million dollars and seven years to remove rabbits from Macquarie Island. Can you imagine the same attempt for mainland Australia? If animals can migrate into the eradication area or be released from captive populations then eradication will not be achieved. If some pest animals develop a resistance to poison baits then the entire population can not be targeted and eradication will not be achieved. Strong support from political leaders and the wider community is needed before eradication should be attempted. The benefits of eradication must be convincing mainly because of the cost and resources required and because community attitudes may not favour killing large numbers of wild animals. For example, koalas were introduced to Kangaroo Island in the 1920s. Over time the population grew koalas started to defoliate large areas of riverine habitat. A Task Force recommended a culling program to remove 2500 koalas from the island. Public outcry forced the government to establish a program to catch, sterilise and relocate the animals. This program was suspended in 2000 when it became clear that the numbers on the island were too large for such a costly program. No solution has yet been found. It is extremely difficult to calculate an accurate answer for this point as there are few reliable measurements for agricultural or environmental damage caused by pest animals. Where industries and people rely on pest animals for income (feral pig meat trade or rabbit fur for akubra hats) huge compensation payments may be needed. The most difficult part of an eradication program is the removal of the last few animals. Sometimes control operations stop when the pest animal population is at very low numbers. The animals can become difficult to find and the cost of finding these last few animals increases. If every last animal is not eradicated the population usually recovers.

13 WHAT CAN WE DO? do not release unwanted pets
stay alert to future invasions continue to research accept that eradication is not possible monitor existing pest animals provide resources to manage pest animals and their impact effectively educate future land managers Everyone can play a part in managing pest animals and help stop new pest species entering and establishing populations in Australia. Don’t release your aquarium or pond fish in the local river. Keep your pets inside at night. Register your pets and have them desexed by your local vet. Alert local authorities if you see an animal you are not familiar with – especially fish in river systems. Maintain pressure on governments to continue to fund research into pest animal control. Accept that eradication is not possible at this time and instead direct time and resources into effective pest animal management programs. Ensure that you are up to date with the latest and most effective management practises and programs, especially if you are a farmer. And, make sure that students have a good understanding of pest animals in Australia and understand the risks involved with future invasions of pest animal species.


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