Monday, 13 April 2009

When will we ever learn ?

I'm always surprised when I see reports of man playing with the natural balance of things. There are plenty of examples where man has moved a certain species from one continent to another in order to solve a problem, or merely for sport, and the result has been disastrous.

An example of this is the case of the Wild Pigs Of America. The U.S. government estimates that there are more than 4 million wild pigs scattered throughout 40 U.S. states. These pigs were introduced into America by Hernando de Soto in 1539, then hunting enthusiasts released German wild boars into the wild in the 19th century, and Russian wild boars were released across several southern states in the early 20th century. What seemed like a pretty good idea at the time has resulted in an ecological disaster, with the pigs devouring huge amounts of crops, tearing up plants, and driving out native wildlife by outcompeting them. The problem is so bad in some places that there are actually federal teams of hog hunters armed with machine guns, which is probably seen as great fun by the guys with the machine guns. The problem is that the pigs have no natural predators, other than man, and so they are able to spread quickly. Not only that, but they may spread disease to humans, as well as livestock and pets. Yep ... a complete mess caused by man.

So, what's the story with Cane Toads then .. oh ... Cane Toads were introduced into the sugar cane growing state of Queensland in 1935, to combat the cane beetle, a pest of sugar cane crops.
However, as the toad is not native to Australia, it has no predators, and has since spread across most of Queensland and almost entirely across the Northern Territory, including the world-renowned wetlands of Kakadu. You see there are plenty of creatures who will eat it, but none who can survive its poison and live to eat more.

Right. So, here we are talking about introducing 'Meat Ants' into Australia (New Scientist Apr 09) in order to control the spread of toxic Cane Toads. The ants aren't affected by the toxin and so the toads are fair game.
Once the population of Toads declines though and the Ant numbers increase, won't the Ants go looking for other prey ... hmmm ... sounds like more trouble to me. Best check that the Meat Ant has a predator in Australia before you introduce it huh ?

Does this remind anyone else of the old story about the Old Woman Who Swallowed A Fly ?

Will we ever learn ?


  1. Sorry? You want a truck-load of old women to go to Australia to eat the ants? Bladderwort x

  2. Hey ... now there's a plan :o) No .. wait a minute ... they'd need teeth ....