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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon. Dr David Kemp
31 May 2003
Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today congratulated Parks Australia - part of the Commonwealth's Department of Environment and Heritage - and the Invasion Biology Group from Monash University for winning a 2003 Banksia Foundation award for the Protection of Australia's Environment for its successful campaign to eradicate Christmas Island's biggest ever environmental threat - yellow crazy ants.
"I am delighted that this ground-breaking project has been recognised as it stands as a model for managing invasive species in Australia and elsewhere," Dr Kemp said.
"A combination of Federal Government funding, hard work, scientific excellence and cooperation with industry and the local Christmas Island community has halted the potentially catastrophic spread of ant super-colonies on the island.
"This project was very important because the crazy ants had the potential to wipe out the world-renowned red crab population and devastate Christmas Island's unique environment. They also pose a serious threat to a number of our native species, including the nationally-listed Loggerhead Turtle, Skinks and ground-nesting bird species."
The yellow crazy ant was accidentally introduced to Christmas Island between 1915 and 1934 but it is only in recent years populations have exploded - forming high-density crazy ant super-colonies, each comprising hundreds of millions of ants that have the potential to spread across most of Australia.
Anything that disturbs the nest is readily stung and this can induce anaphylactic shock in sensitive animals. Native animals stung by Fire Ants can be blinded or infected, reducing their chance of survival or killing them outright.
The Federal Government contributed $1.5 million towards the eradication program of which $200,000 was funded under the $2.7 billion Natural Heritage Trust.
The control program took place over the last few years starting with ground baiting. In 2002, research and control efforts culminated in an aerial control campaign that devastated crazy ant super colonies on Christmas Island.
Knowledge gained from the Christmas Island program is being used for invasive ant control programs on the Australian mainland and has already helped to successfully eradicate yellow crazy ants from Cairns.
For further information visit www.ea.gov.au/parks/christmas/fauna/index.html.
David Slip (Parks Australia) 0429 645 136
Catherine Job (Dr Kemp) 02 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400