Can we combat what's killing the wombat?

June 16th 2016

The Worst Effects of Invasive Species

A lot of what we do at Japanese Knotweed Solutions revolves around the construction industry and private gardens. However, we also work alongside organisations like the Environment Agency, Eden Rivers Trust and Cornwall Knotweed Forum, working in areas where Japanese knotweed causes marked and severe effects on native species. Representatives of all of these organisations attended our recent seminar in Manchester.

As my colleague Chris highlighted last week, it's always awful to see people injured when dealing with plants such as Giant hogweed, and it's very distressing for homeowners to be told that their homes are "worthless" due to Japanese knotweed. We also see quite severe negative effects in this country's waterways relating to the so-called "Killer Shrimp".

However, elsewhere in the world, there are several cases which put the UK's problems in the shade, such as the introduction of Nile Perch to Lake Victoria and the Cane Toad in Australia. We also don't currently have the type of distressing problem highlighted in this article, which highlights a huge problem involving wombats in Australia.

Basically the problem involves hairy-nosed wombats in the Murraylands area of Southern Australia who are eating a widespread invasive plant called common heliotrope. It is estimated that up to a staggering 85% of the regions wombats are sick or dying.

With common heliotrope so widespread that it has not been declared a noxious weed, simply because complete control or eradication is very unlikely - and with the plant occupying over 10 million hectares in southeastern Australia, there is little chance that this problem will go away.

The plant is affecting the wombats because of a class of chemicals that it contains, called pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are also toxic to most livestock. The effects on wombats seem to be particularly severe - and there is nobody reducing the levels of the plant in areas where the wombats live, unlike on the managed land where livestock is present.

This problem presents a real threat to the survival of the wombat in this region, if immediate action is not taken. In some ways, we in the UK can count ourselves lucky (at least for the time being).