• Weird Nature

Invasive Species In Australia Are Wreaking Absolute Havoc

Australia has one of the most unique and isolated natural environments in the world. The continent is teeming with odd-looking animals, interesting plants, and specialized ecosystems. Unfortunately, Australia's isolation makes it that much more susceptible to damage by invasive species.

Australia's war on invasive species began with the arrival of its first colonists from Europe in the 1700s. Many of the animals on this list were brought to Australia to make the country look more like Europe, like foxes and rabbits for hunting. However, in their attempt to make their new country look like home, the colonists put a massive strain on native flora and fauna.

Non-native Australian animals are responsible for extensive damage to the native ecosystems, as well as huge financial loses for agricultural operations. Some, like deer and horses, seem to have become an almost loved part of the landscape, but even they take part in the destruction. 

Most invasive species in Australia were introduced with good intentions, but truthfully the introduction of these animals has had many tragically negative implications for the country.

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  • Photo: Kate Ausburn / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    Camels were originally imported from India and the Middle East to help settlers in Australia with back-breaking labor and transport in the unforgiving desert climate. But when modern technology made them obsolete, thousands of camels were released into the Australian Outback. 

    Much like Australia's wild horses, these large animals have no natural predators and have wreaked havoc on the desert ecosystem. The roughly 750,000 of them empty lots of watering holes used by other wildlife, farms, and aboriginal tribes. They also cause massive amounts of damage to farms by breaking fences and other structures.

    While in the past some animal rights groups have been upset by the shooting of camels as a control method, some residents feel that they have no other choice. However, there has been movement toward rounding up herds of camels and selling them instead. Some are sold for meat, others as riding animals, and some are even shipped back to the Middle East to be sold.

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  • Photo: Brisbane City Council / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    Domestic cats came to Australia with some of the first European settlers in the 1800s, and have made themselves right at home in almost every environment present on the continent. While birds are their primary victims, feral or wild cats have been identified as a risk to 80 endangered and threatened native species. They have also been blamed for the failure of reintroduction programs for native animals like bilbies, numbats, and bandicoots.

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  • Photo: Stephen Ausmus / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Fire ants are both dangerous and costly to Australians. The invasive ants hail from South America, and were first found in Brisbane, Queensland, in 2001. The ants are extremely aggressive, attacking as a group and causing painful bites that can be followed by anaphylactic reactions. 

    Several cities have managed to eradicate the tiny pest, but most areas of Australia have been losing the battle. Australians worry that the spread of fire ants could have an impact on their way of life - things like wearing flip-flops, and having barbecues and picnics. 

    There have already been billions of dollars spent combating fire ants, and according to a recent study, "the total impact to southeast Australia alone will top $45 [AUD] billion over the next 30 years."

  • Photo: mamatdunet / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Much like in the United States, feral pigs are introduced animals that pose a huge environmental threat to Australia. They eat almost every type of living thing, from roots and tubers to small mammals to crustaceans. They erode soil, degrade water quality, and strip native vegetation. They can also spread diseases, in both other animal species and plants. Pigs also breed rapidly, which gives them the ability to easily come back from droughts or control efforts.

    The Australian Government acknowledges that they currently do not have the resources to eradicate the pig population, but they have laid out control plans by state and are attempting to reduce their total numbers.