Feral Focus

Unit 1: What is a pest?

The word 'pest' is generally used to describe an animal that causes serious damage to a valued resource. Such a pest may be destructive, a nuisance, noisy or simply not wanted. A pest may be an animal that was originally introduced by humans to new lands - this is particularly the case in Australia. Or, it may be a native animal such as a kangaroo, possum or parrot.

It is important to note that people decide whether an animal is a pest. What is one person's pest may be a valuable resource to another. For example, recreational hunters and meat processors may regard the feral pig as a valued resource rather than a pest. Others believe that feral pigs are a threat to the environment and agriculture. Such diversity of opinion is one of the main reasons that pest control has had varying success.

Today, those involved in pest animal management know that it is essential to understand the behaviour, diet, reproduction, habitat preferences and other general characteristics of a pest animal to effectively limit its impact on the environment and Australia's economy. This unit of work provides a foundation for students to develop an understanding of what is required for a pest animal to adapt to a new environment, varying public perceptions and why it has been impossible to eradicate established pest animals, such as the fox and rabbit, from mainland Australia.

Student outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • define a pest and identify the characteristics that constitute a pest;
  • understand that different pests create different problems;
  • examine how native animals can sometimes be pests;
  • investigate how pest animals affect you and your family;
  • recognise that pest management is often complex and can involve a number of different interest groups who can influence the approach and methods of control;
  • understand that different interest groups are likely to have different attitudes towards a pest; and
  • investigate that one person's pest can be other person's resource (pest vs resource).

Activities in this unit

The pest problem poster

Discover the destructive world of pest animals in Australia. Present your research in the form of a large format poster.

Understanding pests

Research specific characteristics of a pest animal and discover what exactly makes a pest animal a pest.

The great kangaroo debate

Work together in a role play highlighting the diverse opinions of different people towards a native animal that is often perceived by some as a pest. Can everyone agree on a simple solution?