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Red Fire Ants Threaten Australia; Government to Spend AU$380M to Eradicate Country's 'Worst' Pests

By Rose C
Dec 13, 2016 08:03 AM EST
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The National Red Imported Fire ant Eradication Program has called the federal government to spend AU$380 million (US$283,746,000) over the next decade to wipe out the red fire ants that have wreaked havoc in the biggest cities of Australia such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth, among others.

In a report from ABC, the NRIFAEP found that there was "only a small window of opportunity left" to wipe out an insect that has the potential to be the worst invasive species to ever cross Australia's borders.

Invasive Species Council (ISC) chief executive Andrew Cox told ABC that "the area's slowly expanding and we think it's because they haven't got enough money to do the job."

Accordingly, ISC warns that Australia faces a national emergency if federal and state funding of the country's red fire ant eradication program is not fully funded.

"Fire ants will be a massive hit to our economy, our environment, our healthcare system and our outdoor lifestyle if we do not act now," Cox told BBC.

Cox explains that if this eradication is not properly funded, Sydney will get them, Melbourne will get them, Perth will get them, everywhere will get them. He added that people would not be able to escape them if they miss this small window of opportunity and they only get one shot at this and now is the time.

"Eradication is still possible and in our nation's interest but the time to act is rapidly diminishing," Cox added.

BBC reported that the red ant species entered Australia through the Port of Brisbane in 2001 and have flourished in southeast Queensland. Now, the red ant colonies are estimated to be within 50 kilometers (30 miles) of the New South Wales border.

The red fire ants are notorious to human health, livestock, and properties. In the United States alone, red ants are responsible for at least 85 deaths from anaphylactic reactions when the ants bite en masse which might increase up to 3,000 anaphylactic reactions each year in Australia.

On the other hand, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said the Agriculture Ministers' Forum agreed that eradication remains technically feasible and in the national interest.

"[Federal and state governments] are considering a future eradication program, which will be on the agenda for the first agricultural ministers meeting in 2017 currently scheduled to take place in May," the statement said.

Further reports show that If not contained, the infestation would affect at least 20 sectors of the economy and cost the country $1.6 billion. The federal government has been battling the spread of the red ant for 15 years and had suffered public criticism.

Senator Janet Rice forced the federal government to table the independent review in Parliament.

"The economic benefits of taking action now will vastly outweigh what the current costs are . . . $38 million a year isn't much in the context of a Canberra budget. It's a real no-brainer," she said.

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