Tech & Science Foreign 'dirty dozen' named and shamed

01:40  06 december  2017
01:40  06 december  2017 Source:   msn.com

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Close up of an Asian black-spined toad on bamboo in evening light.© Getty Images Close up of an Asian black-spined toad on bamboo in evening light. Nowhere in Australia is safe.

That's the warning from the head of the nation's Invasive Species Council, which wants levies on air and sea cargo to fund a biosecurity fighting fund to stop the arrival of deadly insects and plants capable of causing an ecological disaster.

"We're calling them the 'dirty dozen' because the case studies include some of Australia's most deadly invasive species - red fire ants, the eucalypt-killer myrtle rust, red-eared slider turtles and yellow crazy ants," council CEO Andrew Cox said on Wednesday.

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"Nowhere in Australia has been safe from these deadly incursions."

Queensland is battling fire ants. The Asian black-spined toad, which pumps out poison through its glands, has turned up in the cooler regions of Victoria and NSW and has now reached Western Australia.

Native plant killer myrtle rust - which infests the eastern seaboard - has now crossed the Bass Strait to Tasmania, Mr Cox said.

"Australia's environmental border controls are a leaky sieve and must be fixed," he said.

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Mr Cox is calling on the federal government to act on the findings of a 2017 national biosecurity review.

These include setting up a biosecurity fighting fund paid for by air and sea levies, basing a biosecurity "champion" within the federal environment department and the compilation of a national priority list of invasive threats.

Portrait of a red-eared tortoise.© Belikart/Getty Images Portrait of a red-eared tortoise.

Australia's deadly dirty dozen explained

A 'dirty dozen' of foreign insects and plants are making their way around Australia risking ecological disaster. Here's a look at the worst of them.


This invasive aggressive South American species has spread itself all over the world hitching rides on ships. It puts already threatened Australian species, including turtles, crocodiles, lizards, frogs and some birds, under threat. Current eradication program effectiveness is being jeopardised by importation processes.

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They look cute but don't be fooled! Often kept as pets, due to their small size and low cost, these turtles can be 'bitey'. This less than endearing habit leads to them being dumped into Australia's waterways.

The turtles pose major threat to native turtles. Breeding populations have been found in NSW and Queensland, with individual specimens spotted in Victoria, ACT and WA.


This toad could steal the Australian cane toad's "most hated" status. In recent years, about 10 of these guys have been intercepted each 12 months. There have been several actual incursions since 2000.

Like the cane toad, they spray a poison through their glands to ward off predators, posing a danger to snakes, goannas and quolls.


This is a fungus that causes disease in Australia's most dominant plant family, Myrtaceae.

It was first detected in 2010 in NSW and is now established in Queensland, NSW and Victoria. Its targets include the medicinal tea tree and lemon myrtle.


Named after the heavyweight boxer this aggressive, illegally released aquarium fish is hardy, adaptable and a prolific breeder that can quickly dominate native fish populations.

So far, one cichlid has been found, in a popular swimming pool in an isolated flooded quarry near Yamba on the NSW north coast.


First detected in Cairns in 2007. They have a broad floral appetite and will compete for pollen and nectar with native birds, mammals and insects.

Their incursion was subject to a failed eradication program because some Australian states didn't want to provide funding.

Source: Invasive Species Council

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