Our role in managing exotic pest animals
Agriculture Victoria is the lead agency for management of exotic pest animals on public and private land in Victoria. These animals are typically pest animals not established in the wild in Victoria and are often referred to as 'new and emerging' pest species.
Our role includes the management of new outbreaks (or incursions) of these exotic pest animals. Incursions can be the result of stowaways on transport vehicles and vessels, through animal smuggling, through the deliberate releases of animals and through animals escaping from captivity.
The department also oversees the regulation of permits to keep declared pest animals. Further information can be found on the legal requirements to keep, trade or move declared pest animals at Permits.
Case study 1: Asian black spined toad, Lang Lang, Victoria
In June 2009, a live specimen of an Asian black spined toad was found in a shipping container unloaded at New Plymouth in New Zealand . The container had been exported from Lang Lang, Victoria and contained bulk bags of silica. Following notification from New Zealand authorities, Agriculture Victoria carried out an investigation to determine the source of the toad and a surveillance program at Lang Lang to determine if there were any Asian black spined toads in the area which includes an internationally recognised RAMSAR wetland.
Trace-back via shipping records indicated that the empty container began its journey in Germany, docked at Malaysia (the container was never opened), stopped in Lang Lang, Victoria before ending its journey in New Plymouth, New Zealand, where the toad was found. The trace back proved inconclusive as to the likely source of the toad could not be determined.
Initial investigation of the Lang Lang site determined that the habitat contained several ponds suitable for breeding. The University of Melbourne, designed a field survey program incorporating a combination of surveillance techniques including active search, the use of toad light traps and auditory monitoring of amphibian mating calls. Surveillance was also conducted by Agriculture Victoria throughout the summer of 2009/10 and no evidence of Asian black spined toad was detected.
This case study illustrates the risk of international and interstate trade as a key pathway for the inadvertent entry of exotic pest animals into Victoria. With the large volumes of international and interstate trade passing through the State, prevention, early detection and eradication of species such as the Asian black spined toad are vital to protecting significant environmental areas such as Western Port Bay and its surrounding RAMSAR-listed wetlands.
Case study 2: Red-eared slider turtle, Elsternwick Park Lake, Victoria
Red-eared slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) are an invasive species native to North America and are now widely spread around the world. Globally they are commonly cited one of 100 of the world's worst invasive species. Outside their native range, Red-eared slider turtles are regarded as a risk to aquatic biodiversity as they prey on native species. They are very adaptable animals and have the ability to populate a wide range of fresh water bodies of varying water quality. Red-eared slider turtles disperse and breed on land and can carry exotic reptile diseases and parasites which could be transmitted to native wildlife and even humans. Red-eared slider turtles are a species that can multiply and spread rapidly. Accordingly they are classified as a Controlled Pest Animal under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994.
As a result of the expansion of red-eared slider turtle populations from the illegal exotic reptile trade to individuals existing in the wild, Agriculture Victoria established a project to initiate an incursion response. Agriculture Victoria's response achieved localised eradication of the highly invasive turtles from Elsternwick Park Lake; a site in suburban Melbourne. The response ensured that the threat posed by this exotic pest to the environment and industry was limited.
Red-eared slider turtles were initially reported at Elsternwick Park Lake through Agriculture Victoria's Customer Service Centre in late 2008. A local resident who thought the turtles looked unusual and unlike our native species, took a photograph of the turtles which enabled Agriculture Victoria to make a timely, positive identification.
A detector dog, trained specifically to detect evidence of red-eared slider turtle breeding, was used at the lake in October 2009. No evidence of breeding was found and a control program to remove the existing turtles was developed.
The control program resulted in three red-eared slider turtles being removed from the lake and follow up surveillance indicates successful eradication from the area.
With the assistance of local government staff and placement of turtle-basking traps at the lake, the department continues to monitor the site for red-eared slider turtles and is hopeful that the establishment of a serious pest has been avoided.