Nose for trouble
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.