Scientist Wants to Unleash Elephants, Rhinos, and Komodo Dragons to Battle Australia's Invasive Species

Alastair Rae/CC BY 2.0

For decades, Australians have been looking for ways to combat the numerous invasive plant and animal species that continue to threaten the natural balance of their ecosystems, but to no real avail. Now, one scientist believes he's stumbled upon an idea so crazy that it just might work -- calling for the unleashing of a host of other non-native species that could make short work of the ones already there. Unsurprisingly, not everyone is so excited with the plan.

Environmental change biologist and University of Tasmania professor David Bowman is the mastermind behind the controversial proposition to release exotic animals to battle other exotic invaders -- namely elephants, rhinos, and Komodo dragons, imported from abroad. If they were to be set loose in the Australian savanna, argues Bowman, problem species already there could be greatly reduced.

One such species that's plagued Australia for years is gamba grass, a fast growing weed that's partially responsible for fueling massive wildfires, like the one that scorched 5 percent of the continent just last year.

"It is too big for marsupial grazers (kangaroos) and for cattle and buffalo," says Bowman. "But gamba grass is a great meal for elephants or rhinoceroses. The idea of introducing elephants may seem absurd, but the only other methods likely to control gamba grass involve using chemicals or physically clearing the land, which would destroy the habitat."

But pesky weeds are not the only problem facing Australia's wildlife; introduced animals, like foxes, pigs, camels, and goats also wreak havoc on native species, and are without natural predators that might otherwise keep them in check, reports The Daily Telegraph. To this, the biologist says 'bring in the dragons':

"We could introduce predators such as the komodo dragon, which would fill the niche of the giant lizards that once thrived in Australia."

Given the fact that no small number of invasive species plaguing Australia today were purposefully introduced by well-meaning human settlers, not everyone is so excited with the idea of bringing in more. In an interview with News.com.au, Dr Rickey Spencer of the University of Western Sydney argued that the plan was shortsighted, and even 'careless':

"If we did go down that road of introducing elephants to Australia, we had better develop the technology to clone the sabre-tooth tigers to eventually control the elephants."

I know, right? But despite what you may be thinking, I believe he meant that as a point of discouragement.

Tags: Animals | Australia

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