Source: News (Extract)
Posted: December 20, 2022

A pest that could cause devastation to Australia’s horticulture sector has been prevented from entering the country after biosecurity officers detected it at Brisbane airport.

Detector dog Petal successfully sniffed out a live brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) in a passenger’s duffle bag, the second time the pest has been discovered in the country.

Deputy secretary of biosecurity Chris Locke said while BMSB does not pose a health risk to humans it is deemed a national priority plant pest as it can breed profusely to become a household nuisance and threaten the horticulture sector.

“BMSB is exotic to Australia and would devastate our cropping industries if it were to establish here,” Dr Locke said.

Dr Locke said the department started training dogs to detect BMSB in 2018.

“Petal and her handler were screening passengers arriving from Taipei when she responded to a passenger’s duffle bag.

“From this detection, biosecurity officers proceeded to conduct a full inspection of the passenger’s remaining baggage and no more bugs were found.

National detector dog lead Colleen Eiser said dogs were ideal for detecting the pest — as the name suggests, the bugs have a strong odour.

“While the dog is learning, ‘While I smell this, I get a reward’, we do multiple repetitions and really encourage the dog to understand they’ll get a reward.

“Out of our current operational detector dogs, there are 37 trained to detect BMSB.”

First assistant secretary of biosecurity operations Colin Hunter said detector dogs had been used on the frontline for 30 years and have become a critical part of biosecurity detection capability.

The first dog to discover the bug, Velvet, retired recently.

“Velvet had 2,600 actionable biosecurity seizures in her career, including fruit, vegetables, meat, seeds and eggs, and was the first detector dog to successfully detect a live BMSB,” he said.

The most recent graduate, Finlay, completed his novice detector dog training in January.

“Following a brief deployment in the mail, traveller and cargo environments in Brisbane, he is now on his way to Sydney to continue sniffing out biosecurity threats,” Mr Hunter said.

“At only two years old, Finlay is very energetic. At his graduation he preferred to play tug of war with his hat rather than wear it, showing everyone his playful side.”