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Joint Media Release
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders
Senator Nigel Scullion
Senator for the Northern Territory

23 September 2006

Australian Government boosts funding to fight crazy ants on Christmas Island

The Australian Government is making available an extra $400,000 in Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) funding to help control the spread of the invasive yellow crazy ant on Christmas Island.

The additional funding was announced today by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Greg Hunt and Senator for Northern Territory, Senator Nigel Scullion.

"After a highly successful aerial baiting programme in 2002, yellow crazy ants are on the march again, threatening the rich biodiversity of Christmas Island and its world famous red crabs," Mr Hunt said.

Since the late 1990s, yellow crazy ants have severely damaged the island's environment, killing between 15 and 20 million crabs that are the key to the health of its unique rainforest ecology. The ants have also led to the decline in the distribution and abundance of the island's native reptiles and insects.

"The Australian Government had already allocated $145, 000 for crazy ant control this year, but the emergence of new super-colonies has underlined the urgency of a full-on attack on the island's biggest environmental threat," Mr Hunt said.

"With the injection of significant additional funding of $400,000 for this year - added to the Government's commitment to fund a long-term eradication programme over ten years - we will now move into an accelerated control, research and development phase.

Key control actions this year, made possible by this additional funding, include the destruction of 300 hectares of crazy ant super-colonies through an increase in ground baiting activities.

Senator Scullion is currently in Christmas Island to meet a range of community representatives.
"Nowhere in the world has anyone solved the problem of eradicating forever this devastating introduced pest," Senator Scullion said. "We are determined to pursue a long-term solution.

"We'll be working with scientists to develop a cost-effective bait which can be dispersed by aircraft. This will allow us to target bait applications to infested sites and provide the flexibility to repeatedly treat areas to prevent remnant ants exploding in numbers again."

"To reduce the dependence on toxic baits in the longer term, we are setting up a major research program to develop a suitable biological control agent," Mr Hunt said.

The Australian Government has spent more than $2 million on the control of the yellow crazy ant on Christmas Island.

Media Contact:
John Deller (Mr Hunt's office) 0400 496 596
Lisa MacLean (Senator Scullion's office) 0419 641 282

Commonwealth of Australia