SPREP Launches Regional Invasive Species Campaign

admin's picture

Rapid spread of fire ant needs to quickly addressed

By Sarah Wilson

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, May 25, 2015) – The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) has launched a new regional TV campaign to raise awareness on the harmful impacts of invasive species.

This new campaign has a focus on restricting the spread of the Little Fire Ant across the Pacific.

It includes an animated TV commercial developed in partnership with The Pasifika Collective which is being broadcast with the support of Australia Plus and will be available for national TV stations across the Pacific islands.

The Little Fire Ant originally came from Central and South America but has started to appear in several islands across the Pacific island region.

Attacking in swarms, the Little Fire Ant has a nasty sting that feels like your skin is on fire and can cause domestic animals such as dogs, cats and pigs to go blind.

Once they infest homes and gardens it becomes extremely difficult for families and farmers to tend plantations and grow crops thus impacting on agricultural production.

The campaign calls upon increased efforts across the Pacific island region to stop the further spread of this invasive species as the financial impact of the Little Fire Ant is costly.

"A recent study shows that, in Hawaii alone, greater prevention efforts could save US5 billion and reduce 2.1 billion sting incidents over 35 years," says David Sheppard, the Director-General of SPREP.

He says the Pacific nations need to urgently find more effective ways for communities to work together to reduce the opportunities for the Little Fire Ant to spread from island to island.

Little Fire Ants are primarily transported accidentally by people who are transporting plant and waste material.

Sheppard says the battle to reduce the impact of invasive species like the Little Fire Ant is everyone’s responsibility.

"The Little Fire Ant poses a very serious threat to livelihoods and native species in Pacific islands and we all need to take preventative actions to stop the spread of the Little Fire Ant before it is too late," he says.

Luckily, the Cook Islands don’t have any Little Fire Ant populations, but Entomologist Dr Maja Poeschko says there is always a risk that they will be brought here accidently.

She says currently, there is one species of fire ant on the Cook Islands, the Tropical Fire Ant which is much less aggressive and harmful then their half-sized counterparts, the Little Fire Ant.

Poeschko says they had a training session recently with the quarantine service who are supposed to put bait out around the harbour area to check for fire ants on a three month basis.

But unfortunately, she says but there is just no funding to run this project.

Poeschko says she relies on people reporting any possible fire ants sightings as she will go down herself to take samples and investigate which species it is.

She says there are always risks that more fire ant species will come to the Cook Islands, for example, there is a species in Tahiti which we don’t have but are at risk to.

"We have direct flights to Tahiti, we have boats coming from Tahiti, so there is always a risk that there might be an invasion of a new fire ant species. We always have to be on alert."

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment