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Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

28 March 2006

You dirty rat!  Protecting Australian wildlife from exotic rats

The threat posed by exotic rats to our native plants and animals has been formally recognised under federal environment law, the Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell said today.

Senator Campbell has included the ‘predation by exotic rats on Australian offshore islands of less than 1000 km2 (100,000 ha)’ as a key threatening process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

“Established populations of exotic rats on Australian offshore islands often have a devastating impact on birds, small mammals, tortoises, lizards, large insects and plant seeds and seedlings specifically, and increase the vulnerability of island ecosystems generally,” Senator Campbell said.

“What this listing will practically do is escalate work on abating the threats posed by exotic rats and help bring together the range of work going on to control the impacts rats are having on our native vegetation and wildlife.

Senator Campbell said the listing was an important demonstration of the Australian Government’s commitment to tackling invasive species.

“Rats are highly invasive species and are having a considerable impact on Australia’s island biodiversity, leading to the extinction of vulnerable indigenous species,” Senator Campbell said.

“In addition to their impact as predators, exotic rats may also exert an influence as competitors for limited food sources.”

The Minister has called for the development of a national Threat Abatement Plan for exotic rat control under the Act.

This Plan will provide for coordination of current and future activities related to controlling the impacts of exotic rats.

“While this key threatening process has been limited to islands of less than 100,000 hectares, a national Threat Abatement Plan is likely to identify actions that will be relevant to larger islands,” Senator Campbell said.

The Minister’s decision is timely, coming as the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity is meeting in Brazil to consider a range of issues related to the conservation of island biodiversity. These issues include identifying opportunities for the control and eradication of key pest species from islands.

Media Contact:
Renae Stoikos (Senator Campbell's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434

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