Dogs recruited in fight against fire ants threatening Sydney

Special sniffer dogs have been brought to Sydney to detect infestations of South American fire ants discovered near the port, a media report said Monday.

The ants are believed to have arrived on a ship from Argentina, and could be a disaster for the environment costing billions of dollars to eradicate if they spread, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

An emergency response team of 25 biosecurity and pest experts have been brought in to eradicate the highly aggressive ants, including three specially trained dogs that can sniff out fire ant colonies.

New South Wales Industry Minister Katrina Hodgkinson said the ants can inflict painful bites on people, pets and livestock and are a serious threat to the community and economy.

Andrew Cox, chief executive of the Invasive Species Council, said one colony of the fire ants had been detected near Sydney's port area and destroyed.

The ants can quickly take over open grassy areas and make it impossible to walk with open shoes. The search would cover several kilometres around the Sydney port.

"You only get one go at this," Cox told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Australia's first outbreak of fire ants in Brisbane in 2001 cost 281 million Australian dollars (232 million US dollars) to eradicate. A national outbreak could end up costing 43 billion Australian dollars, the primary industries department warned.

The ants, native to Brazil, are 6 millimetres long and reddish-brown in colour. Their bite causes a severe burning sensation and deaths have been reported.



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