Poster Presentation Science Protecting Plant Health 2017

Building and maintaining awareness of electric ant in a long-term eradication program (#306)

Gary Morton 1 , Chris Hollingdrake
  1. Biosecurity Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Cairns, QLD, Australia

Since electric ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) was detected in Cairns in 2006, the National Electric Ant Eradication Program (the Program) has continually evolved to meet the needs of this challenging long-term eradication program. Building and maintaining awareness of electric ants across a diverse range of Far North Queensland stakeholders has been crucial to finding infestation. Nearly 40 % of all electric ant detections have been the result of public reporting. Maintaining that awareness has posed a significant challenge.

The wide distribution and variety in infestation size, ranging from a few infested pot plants up to the original 37 hectare detection at Smithfield, has provided significant challenges. Additionally, human assisted movement through plant swapping has often been under-appreciated as a means of electric ant spread by the broader community. Engaging with the diverse range of stakeholders, including high risk businesses, local government and inter-government agencies and the general public has been a significant challenge. The cryptic nature and small size of electric ants has made it difficult to explain to the general public where to find them and how to recognise them.  To combat these challenges and avoid campaign tiredness and public apathy the Program has developed communication and engagement strategies targeting community good will and motivation to preserve their natural environment, economy and out-door way of life.

This presentation explores the evolution of engagement tools developed to build and maintain public awareness and motivation to support the Program. The relationship between motivation and the perception of how easy it is to help, will highlight a useful strategy for overcoming public apathy. Additionally, the evolution of engagement strategies from mass communication to a more personal social conversation is explored through social media.