Odour detection dogs sniff out invasive red imported fire ant
By Greg Navarro

The Australian state of Queensland is using a world first detection team to help identify one of the most invasive species on the planet.

Odor detection dogs are able to find red imported fire ants in places that humans cannot, including under concrete slabs and driveways, and under nests that have already been treated.

"The dogs use their olfactory system to do that which runs at about 10,000 times that of a human," said Biosecurity Queensland detection dog handler Jordan Christison. "The equivalent is, in terms that we would understand, if you dumped a teaspoon of sugar into a tea cup, we would be able to perceive that. The equivalent of the dogs doing that is if you dumped a teaspoon into two Olympic-sized swimming pools, they would still be able to pick up on that sugar."

Odor detection dogs training to find red fire ants. /CGTN Photo

Odor detection dogs training to find red fire ants. /CGTN Photo

Red imported fire ants were first detected in Southeast Queensland in 2001. At the time it was believe that they had already been in Australia for at least 20 years. That triggered an aggressive eradication program aimed at containing and eliminating the ants before they are able to spread across the country.

"If we are not successful in containing and eradicating them, then the cost to the economy is estimated to be about 45 billion Australian dollars per annum," said Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program CEO John Jordan. "They've never been stopped in any country. Australia is the first country to eradicate on a small scale."

Red imported fire ants are one of the world's most invasive species. /Photo courtesy of Biosecurity Queensland

Red imported fire ants are one of the world's most invasive species. /Photo courtesy of Biosecurity Queensland

The highly aggressive pests not only pose a threat to livestock and crops, they also can impact humans with the ability to render outdoor areas uninhabitable.

"They will take up residence in your backyard, they will affect your pets, they will affect your children's ability to play in the backyard so yes, there are economic and rural production impacts, for mum and dad there are very real issues," said Jordan.

Odor detection dogs training in Brisbane. /CGTN Photo

Odor detection dogs training in Brisbane. /CGTN Photo

The detection dogs have proved to be an invaluable part of the eradication program by sniffing out the ants with an accuracy rate of up to 99%.

"The dogs detecting on these nests stops one nest from turning into 20 which turns into 100 in areas that we have previously believed to be cleared," said Christison.

(Cover image: The red imported fire ant. /VCG Photo)

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