Feral Focus

A RISKY BUSINESS - Red-billed Quelea

Setting the scene

Many exotic bird species have been imported into Australia, using appropriate quarantine practises, as part of the pet and aviary trade. Historically, some exotic bird species have escaped captivity (or have been deliberately released) and have established wild populations but many escapees have not established wild populations.

A Victorian bird enthusiast is keen to import the Red-billed Quelea into Australia as many people view it as an attractive bird with bright plumage and a pleasant song. Large numbers of red-billed quelea occur in the wild and the collection of specimens for the pet and aviary trade would not affect wild population numbers. It is well known that the bird adapts readily to captivity and will happily breed if the correct conditions are supplied.

What to do

Biosecurity Australia, a Government agency responsible for assessing the risk from allowing the import of pests, has sought comment from your business (Conservation Matters) on your views about the risk from permitting the import of red-billed quelea into Australia.

  1. Research the biology of the Red-billed quelea to assess the potential for this animal to become an established pest.
  2. Use your findings to complete the pest risk assessment guide and create a score for each of the following sections:
    • Risk to public safety
    • Risk of establishing a wild population
    • Risk of becoming a pest
  3. Use the pest risk assessment table and calculate the probability of the red-billed quelea becoming a pest in Australia if it escapes or is released from an aviary.
  4. Review information about the characteristics of successful pests.
  5. Prepare your response in the form of a detailed report to Biosecurity Australia.
    Include in your response:
    • the animal's threat status to Australia based on the completed risk assessment activity
    • the characteristics that would aid this animal in becoming a pest.
    • the economic consequences if this animal established a wild population
      • impact on primary industry
      • global industry
      • tourism industry
    • the cultural / social consequences if this animal established a wild population
      • safeguards, if any, that would be required to keep the public safe
      • the risk of the spread of disease
      • would public activity / outdoor recreation be affected?
    • the environmental consequences if this animal established a wild population
      • competition with native animals and birds
      • are there any critically endangered species that may be adversely affected?
      • is there a particular habitat that may be adversely affected?

Documents for download

Further reading

To gain a better understanding of the task at hand it is recommended that you read sections of the following:


Feral Fact

Common (Indian) Mynas were deliberately released in Canberra in the late 1960s because people liked them in their gardens. They are now an established pest in the city and have begun to spread into woodland and neighbouring towns. It is predicted Mynas will eventually spread to much of the south-east coast and sub-coast. The bird has the potential to become a major pest capable of damaging fruit and vegetable crops, fouling public places, spreading weeds, competing with native birds and animals for food, shelter and breeding sites and assisting in the spread of disease. It is currently considered impossible to completely eradicate.

Source: Penny Olsen. Australia's Pest Animals: New Solutions to Old Problems, Bureau of Resource Sciences and Kangaroo Press, 1998.