Nose for trou­ble

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - NEWS -

TWO spe­cially trained dogs from the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment vis­ited Perth Air­port and more than 70 Belmont busi­nesses to sniff out an ex­otic pest last week.

TWO spe­cially trained dogs from a Queens­land Gov­ern­ment unit that is a global leader in find­ing ants by odour detection vis­ited Perth Air­port and more than 70 Belmont busi­nesses on a mis­sion to sniff out an ex­otic pest ant this week.

The dogs, Wil­low (4) and Olivia (8) were put through their paces at sev­eral lo­ca­tions around the air­port on Mon­day and Tues­day as part of an erad­i­ca­tion pro­gram against brows­ing ant.

Brows­ing ant is a tramp ant na­tive to south­ern Europe and is usu­ally found in semi-desert or Mediter­ranean re­gions.

It is ide­ally suited to Aus­tralian con­di­tions and can form multi-queened su­per­colonies, dis­plac­ing na­tive ant species and other in­ver­te­brates, which di­min­ishes avail­able food for higher-or­der or­gan­isms such as lizards and birds.

De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Food (DAFWA) biose­cu­rity and reg­u­la­tion ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Kevin Chen­nell said brows­ing ants were de­tected at Perth Air­port in 2013 and at a freight de­pot in Belmont.

“DAFWA has been work­ing with more than 70 busi­nesses in Belmont and at Perth Air­port to erad­i­cate the pest,” Dr Chen­nell said.

“Biose­cu­rity is a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity and work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively is im­por­tant to safe­guard our re­sources. “Th­ese busi­nesses have al­lowed DAFWA staff ac­cess to their prop­er­ties to carry out reg­u­lar checks to en­sure this pest is elim­i­nated.”

Wil­low and Olivia have been spe­cially trained to sniff out fire ants and can de­tect a range of other ants with their su­per­sen­si­tive snouts.

Na­tional Fire Ant Erad­i­ca­tion pro­gram di­rec­tor with Biose­cu­rity Queens­land Sarah Cor­co­ran said the pro­gram’s suc­cess­ful use of odour detection dogs to sniff out in­va­sive ants was a world-first in­no­va­tion.

The dogs can de­tect brows­ing ant pheromones from sev­eral me­tres away and iden­tify nests long be­fore they be­come vis­i­ble to the hu­man eye.

Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources deputy sec­re­tary Lyn O’Con­nell said the sur­veil­lance ac­tiv­i­ties would hope­fully con­firm that Perth Air­port was now free of brows­ing ant.

“It is im­pos­si­ble to stop ev­ery­thing at the border, but when we dis­cover in­cur­sions quickly, like we did in this case, it gives us the best chance of com­pletely erad­i­cat­ing a pest or disease,” Ms O’Con­nell said.

“It’s fit­ting that our of­fi­cer who ini­tially dis­cov­ered the in­cur­sion will be on site help­ing to as­sess whether brows­ing ant has been suc­cess­fully erad­i­cated.”

Biose­cu­rity of­fi­cer Dave Pel­ham, senior tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer Marc Wid­mer and Biose­cu­rity Queens­land’s Sarah Cor­co­ran with snif­fer dogs Wil­low and Olivia.

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