A stowaway shrew caught trying to eschew Australia’s biosecurity laws was tamed by shrewd airport and biosecurity staff at Perth’s International Airport earlier this month.
The wayward mole-like mammal was discovered in the rear hold of a flight from Denpasar, Indonesia, by baggage handlers, who promptly alerted biosecurity staff.
Head of biosecurity operations at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Nico Padovan, said that exotic stowaway animals could bring unwanted diseases to Australia.
“We work closely with front-line airport staff and baggage handlers to identify and report biosecurity threats, such as stowaway animals, so we can deal with the risk before it becomes a serious problem,” Mr Padovan said.
“With the rise of commercial air travel comes an increased risk of new pests and diseases finding their way into Australia.
“They may appear harmless, but shrews can carry exotic viruses similar to those that cause Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. They can also carry ticks harbouring diseases present in South East Asia like scrub typhus and spotted fever.
“Not only that, but shrews could harm Australia’s unique wildlife—they’re active animals that have adapted to live in agricultural areas, villages, towns and cities in Southeast Asia and spread widely outside their native range.
“Unfortunately, as live stowaway animals have a health status that is unknown to biosecurity staff, this shrew had to be humanely euthanised by a qualified veterinarian.
“We’re very lucky to be one of the few countries in the world to remain free from many of the world’s most severe pests and diseases.
“Our biosecurity system is designed to maintain this status by focusing surveillance and detection capabilities on the variety of pathways through which diseases could enter the country.
“Through a combination of offshore, at the border and onshore measures, we are able to minimise the risk of exotic pests and diseases entering the country and affecting our unique environment, native flora and fauna, our export and tourism industries and our lifestyles.”
For more information about biosecurity in Australia, visit: agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity/australia.