Two agencies warn native species at ‘sliding doors’ moment

By Jackson Graham

November 24, 2021

wild-rabbit
A wave of new extinctions loom if Australia continues its usual approach to invasive species. (Geza Farkas/Adobe)

Australia faces a “sliding doors” moment as introduced predators wipe out native species, two government agencies warn. 

A new CSIRO and Centre for Invasive Species Solutions report flags a looming wave of new extinctions if Australia continues its “business as usual” approach, but says there’s still hope if the right actions occur. 

CSIRO scientist Dr Andy Sheppard said the magnitude of the invasive species issue was unknown to most Australians but “urgent, decisive, coordinated” action was needed. 

Damage from invasive species in Australia each year is, meanwhile, costing at least $25 billion, with the number likely to rise.  

More than eight in 10 nationally listed threatened species are endangered by invasive species, the report warns, and most of Australia’s native wildlife are found nowhere else on Earth. 

“Prevention will be much cheaper and more effective than trying to control the spread of pests and weeds once they are established,” Sheppard said. 

“We need to safely harness emerging technologies, revitalise our biosecurity research and innovation system and continue to invest in long-term strategic research and development.” 

CISS chief executive Andreas Glanznig said working towards a pest and weed-proof Australia was how to stop the problem from worsening.

The challenge is for all Australians to work together to stop the problem from getting worse,” Glanznig said. 

Since European settlement, 79 Australian native species have perished, with invasive species contributing to the extinction. 

The biggest threat is European rabbits, which infiltrate two-thirds of Australia, while feral cats, pigs, foxes, and cane toads also pose major predatory concerns. 

“Education and public awareness programs are needed so we can enlist millions of Australians to help find and eradicate invasive species before they get a foothold,” Glanznig said. 

“The technology exists to establish a national, coordinated community surveillance network, making it possible for everyone to get involved, to help find new invaders early before they can become a problem.”

The report highlights a need to invest in emerging technologies, and “revitalise” Australian biosecurity research and innovation. 

“If we continue to invest in long-term strategic research and development that can fast-track novel biosecurity technologies, we will create new ways to prevent, eradicate, contain and control invasive pests,” the report suggests. 


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