WARNING: Some viewers my find images distressing
To demonstrate how pest animals such as mice, rabbits, feral cats and carp are an ongoing threat to Australia's pristine environment, Invasive Animals CRC recently hosted their annual photography competition which documents this significant environmental issue.
We're often told about this epidemic, about how Australia is experiencing one of its worst outbreaks of pests with expanding populations and the destruction they cause - but how much of this do we actually see?
The competition encourages everyday people to get amongst nature and experience what's happening in the environment, and simultaneously, capture photographic evidence of pest animals and the impact they have on our native flora and fauna.
Mary-Anne Addington of NSW experienced a fox attacking and killing a native Eastern great egret in broad daylight during a visit to the Hunter Wetlands Centre in Newcastle. Often carrying her camera with her, Ms Addington captured the shocking footage of this water bird fighting for its life, as a fox executes its survival instincts.
"Looking back at the image, I still find it confronting," Ms Addington said.
Ms Addington received first place for her photograph. This particular species of egret is protected in Australia and during her visit at the Wetlands, Ms Addington had noticed that the fox had killed a number of them that same day. After taking the photos, she informed the wetlands staff who were also shocked by the destruction and have since undertaken further predator control and as well as sought funding to build a predator proof fence which surrounds the wetlands.
Hugh James' submission of Gooniyandi Rangers working on the feral cat management program in the Kimberley, WA was amongst the 309 images and 23 videos entries and a strong contender.
Mr James, who works as a program coordinator at the Gooniyandi Aboriginal Coorporation says that the management program aims to control feral cats on Gooniyandi land, as well as educate the public on the threat of their increasing population.
Feral cats impact on nearly 150 threatened species across Australia and on Gooniyandi country, the Greater Bilby and Northern Spotted Quoll are most at risk.
Other prize winners included an image of feral goats in full fight, taken by Sue Stelzer in western Queensland, a close-up of a single ‘carp egg,’ taken by Danswell Starrs in Canberra and a series of remote camera images showcasing the devastating impact of feral cats on the endangered Malleefowl, taken by Ashleigh Harris in Western Australia.
Ian McDonald of the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre says that he was particularly taken with Starrs' image of the carp egg.
"It's a great image because you just think about how this tiny little egg is our worst aquatic pest," he told NITV. "Not to mention one adult female carp can lay one million eggs."
For the first time, the competition also had a 'best video category', where movable image could be submitted. The winner was Parks Victoria with a a compilation of still remote camera images of a Sambar deer wallowing in the Alpine Peatland communities in the Victorian Alpine National Park. These peatlands are endangered ecological communities and provide critical habitat for many rare and threatened species.
Winners of the competition received camping store vouchers donated by sponsors, to encourage them to continue enjoying, exploring and understanding Australia's ecology.