Media Release

​Detector dogs sniff out Browsing Ants​

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce
Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries, Willem Westra van Holthe MLA


16 October 2015

Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, and the Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industries, Willem Westra van Holthe, today announced funding to develop detector dogs’ capabilities as a potential weapon against the invasive pest, Browsing Ant, detected recently in Darwin.

Minister Joyce said ant-odour detecting dogs from the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Programme, based in Queensland, would be trained to see if they can detect the newly discovered Browsing Ant in Darwin.

“This ant has the potential to decimate native ant species, other insects and cause indirect harm to plants,” Minister Joyce said.

“Ensuring that Australia remains free of many of the exotic pests and diseases that are prevalent in other countries is an enormous job, but our biosecurity system does just that, saving farmers up to $17,500 per farm per year.

“That is why the Australian Government is providing $55,000 in funding to the Queensland Government to support the deployment and trial of the dogs to see if they can assist in detecting Browsing Ants.

“Biosecurity is the foundation that our estimated $57.1 billion agricultural production is built on. Take away our strong animal and plant health status and you hurt our nation’s economy, agricultural productivity and rural and regional communities.

“Odour detection dogs contributed significantly to the success of the on-going eradication and containment efforts for fire ants in Queensland and New South Wales.”

Minister Westra van Holthe said this was another excellent example of how governments came together to protect Australia’s environment and agricultural industries from exotic pests.

“The sharing of expertise and resources like this shows how Australia unites to get the job done,” said Minister Westra van Holthe.

“The National Fire Ant Program was the first in the world to develop this technology and has been helping Hawaii with training dogs to eradicate ants, and now the Northern Territory can get involved.

“The Queensland team is visiting  Darwin with a black labrador detector dog called ‘Willow’ and working with my Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries to collect ants to establish a Browsing Ant colony to produce odour to train the dogs. 

“The dogs will be trained to pick up on the specific odours of the ant and in the past they have been so accurate they could identify a single ant from several metres away.

“If successful the dogs may be able to help determine how far this incursion has spread and will be vital in providing evidence of absence when the pest has been destroyed.”