On Thursday 1 November, ant ecologist and former Cairns local Dr Abbott, now at University of New England, and Gimuy Walubara Yidinji Traditional Owner Gudju Gudju, a tribal ecologist and director of Abriculture, spoke at the Authority’s Science in the Pub event about Ants: the good, the bad and the crazy.
Held at the Cape York Hotel, the free event shared some of the many interesting and unique features that make the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area a significant natural and cultural landscape.
Both speakers are calling on the public to take more notice of ants and to help in the fight to protect our native ants and other critters under threat by invasive species such as the yellow crazy ant.
Gudju Gudju emphasised the importance of our native ants and their integral role in maintaining a healthy environment. He lamented that introduced species threaten the ecological balance of our environment, however many are here to stay. While native ants work with their environment, yellow crazy ants destroy the environment and challenge our lifestyle.
Dr Abbott concurred saying native ants are underappreciated in the Wet Tropics’ ecosystem, where they play important and diverse roles such as dispersing seeds and as predators in the rainforest.
“In Australia we have among the highest rates of ant diversity in the world. In the Wet Tropics that’s particularly true, where ants are part of a rich underground micro-community.
“Along with fungi, earthworms, nematodes and other microorganisms, they help create healthy soil for everything else that grows on top,” Dr Abbott said.
Invasive ant species can wreak havoc, as shown by the impacts of yellow crazy ants in the Wet Tropics and highlighted by the Authority’s Yellow Crazy Ant Eradication Program.
Gudju Gudju also highlighted the opportunity for Rainforest Aboriginal people and organisations such as Abriculture to collaborate to rid yellow crazy ants from the region.
Both speakers noted the importance of the community being aware of the impact of yellow crazy ants.
“I want people to take more notice of ants, and the good—or bad—these species can do in their backyard and the environment,” Dr Abbott said.
“The simple act of taking notice can help connect people to the environment, and encourage greater appreciation and stewardship of areas like the Wet Tropics.”
Science in the Pub was a free, all-ages event.