‘Can you stamp on all the pest animals?’
Along the interpretive rainforest walk beside Lake Eacham National Park, part of Queensland’s Wet Tropics World Heritage site, children are asked if they can stamp on all the pest animals. Instructions clearly demarcate for anyone who might be unsure, exactly what to do – what is native and belongs, and what comes from other countries – and does not belong. The choice seems clear. With clear metaphorical intention, the game challenges children not only to learn to demarcate native from other, but as they do so, balance themselves on top of small constructed pedestals, stamping stones, each one identified by a picture diagram of possible friend or foe; Scrub Python, Indian Myna, Tree Kangaroo, Tilapia, Brush Turkey, Cane Toad, Goat. We watch, and wonder, how each will choose; which animals to select and balance above, triumphant.
Today, with Stephanie Toole, I visited Lake Eacham along our route across the Atherton Tablelands, heading west toward the dry vine thickets and savanna country in search of invasive (pest) plant rubber vine as part of AUSCCER research project ‘The Social life of Invasive Plants’ led by Lesley Head. In this research we aim to provide new perspectives on human relations with invasive plants. We know they have significant economic and environmental impacts, but they have usually been studied from an ecological rather than a human perspective.
It shouldn’t be too hard to find – rubber vine has infested some 700,000 hectares and is present across 20% of Queensland. It threatens pastoral production and significant tropical biodiversity. A formidable opponent; prolific, fecund, tenacious.
Stamping out Rubber Vine (resident in Australia since the late 1800’s) is one part of the national weed strategy – eradication in some parts of the country is part of the policy objective, but is it really feasible? How much is it going to cost? How long will it take? Is there an alternative(s)? What if it can’t be done?
In other parts of the country, vast tracts are heavily infested and eradication is not longer the objective. We look forward to learning what life is like for the people who have to live with – rather than stamp out this pest.