REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Hopping mad ferals over the hump

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Camels, which run wild in central Australia, are sought after in north west Queensland for their penchant for prickly acacia, one of the many introduced weeds choking up the countryside. Photo: Sally Gall.

Camels, which run wild in central Australia, are sought after in north west Queensland for their penchant for prickly acacia, one of the many introduced weeds choking up the countryside. Photo: Sally Gall.

Last week was a particularly feral one in my part of the world.

The Queensland Country Life front page headline 'Pestilence' summed it up - the destruction posed by cats, fall armyworm, and grasshoppers were all in the limelight, and a story on the control of rabbits followed later in the week.

Opinion is divided on the true extent of the damage feral and domestic cats have on Australia's native wildlife, but most agree billions of small animals die in the jaws of cats every year, and that 100 species are "near threatened".

So great is the concern that the federal government has a parliamentary inquiry into their impact on the boil.

The feral cat problem seems to have grown so large in one southern Queensland shire they're even invading town business premises.

The Maranoa shire has snaffled nearly $150,000 of federal money to trap cats roaming its commercial and industrial premises, living in ceilings and knocking over bins.

"They're living on the streets, they don't have enough to eat - if you were to see them, you wouldn't think they were having a good life," the mayor, Tyson Golder said.

Given that the region is also battling a strong rise in mouse numbers, they would seem to be fairly inept cats.

Nearby, farmers have been discussing the best ways to combat the exotic fall armyworm pest, which has the potential to wipe out agricultural crops, including maize, rice, sorghum, sugarcane and wheat, as well as fruit, vegetable and cotton crops.

It's taken less than a year to spread from the Torres Strait through Queensland, the Northern Territory, parts of Western Australia and south to northern New South Wales but Darling Downs farmers are taking a 'don't panic' approach.

They have the benefit of a cooler climate to slow breeding rates down, and are planning to use biotech products and a beneficial native insect, Trichogramma wasp, to handle the new generation once it begins migrating.

If only hopping mad western Queenslanders had that luxury - many of them have just watched their pastures disappear down the mouths of grasshoppers for the third year in a row.

These are the same people who lost around half a million head of cattle from flooding and hypothermia in that monsoon event two years earlier.

Because they're not locusts, aren't flying far from where they hatch and are therefore unlikely to destroy high value crops, help seems far away.

Queensland's Agriculture Minister Mark Furner has just announced a grasshopper working group and a third survey in as many years.

From one hopping pest to another, albeit introduced, and the news that a warren-ripping exercise has evicted 158,000 rabbits from their homes in southern Queensland, and you're getting the picture of my week.

On the positive front, camels were successfully sold via the online platform AuctionsPlus recently - only another 600,000 to go and Australia might have turned that feral pest into a manageable business.

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