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Sniffing out success in eradicating a pest

The Territory Government has enlisted odour detection dogs to tackle a potential biosecurity threat in the Territory, and is seeing fantastic results.

NT Minister for Primary Industry and Resources, Ken Vowles, said the joint initiative with the Australian and Queensland Governments to tackle browsing ants is vital to ensure the safety of the NT’s $500 million agricultural sector. The odour detection dogs travel from Queensland to Darwin to work with Territory biosecurity officers and sniff out the exotic pest.

“It is important to protect our agricultural sector and environment from invasive pests,” Mr Vowles said.

“Browsing ants were first discovered in the Territory in the Darwin Port area in 2015. They eat other ants and form super colonies that can displace native species and most other invertebrates. Since they were discovered here we have been successfully using tracing, surveillance and control measures to contain and eradicate the infestation. Queensland odour detection dogs are being used to confirm whether several properties nearing the end of treatment and a two-year surveillance period are now free from the pest.

“The skills of these dogs are incredible – they can sniff out a single ant seven metres away. If the conditions are favourable, the dogs can detect ants from up to 30 metres away.”

After the initial sighting of browsing ants in 2015, 20 properties in the Darwin region were found to have infestations.

“Thanks to the hard work of NT Department of Primary Industry and Resources biosecurity staff, and sharing expertise with other governments, we remain on track to achieving eradication of this pest,” Mr Vowles said.

“And surveillance further afield in Pinelands, Humpty Doo, Katherine and Alice Springs, as well as in remote areas of Arnhem Land, Gove, the Tiwi Islands and Groote Eylandt, have found no detection of browsing ants.

“The odour detection dogs have played a huge role in this, as they can cover much more distance in a day than traditional surveillance methods, which involve humans slowly walking and scanning the ground. This sharing of expertise and resources shows how the NT Government is prepared to go the extra mile to keep our agricultural industries and environment safe.”

If you think you see a browsing ant population, contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline: 1800 084 881.

Source: NT Government

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