Introduced Animal Species to Australia Invasive, Feral, Beneficial & Benign Animals Introduced to Australia

Introduced animals are those animals that were not indigenous to the Australian continent before the arrival of humans. Many animals were introduced into Australia by humans. The first to arrive was the dingo about 5,000 years ago. Subsequently, a large number of non-native animal species were imported by European settlers. Many of these introduced animals have become invasive pests. They are destroying native Australian native flora and fauna. (Learn more about their impact on Australia here).

Introduction of Non-native Animals to Australia Animals Brought by Humans to Australia

There Were No
Mice, Apes & Monkeys
in Australia

Photo: House mouse

Until Europeans came to Australia in 1788, there were no hoofed animals (like horses, cattle, goats, deer, etc.) in Australia. There were no apes or monkeys in Australia either.

Rats and mice were the only animals that the Europeans didn't bring intentionally. They arrived as stowaways on ships.

Numerous animals were brought to Australia by humans. Some, such as the sheep and cattle, have been vital to the Australian economy. Others have become invasive and cause serious problems to the Australian environment, native animals and plants. This has led to the demonisation of these hapless creatures as somehow evil. Some attempts to eradicate them have been very cruel and inhuman.

The Australian Ecosystem Isolated and Protected for Millions of Years

Believe It or Not

Humans have been the most destructive animals ever introduced to Australia.

Australia has been isolated and insulated from the rest of the world for millions of years. In its isolation, many plants and animals evolved, specialised and adapted to Australia’s unique environment. Up until the arrival of Europeans settlers starting in 1788, only one non-indigenous animal was introduced to Australia. This was the dingo which arrived about 4,000 years ago. Since 1788 however more than 25 mammals, 20 birds, 4 reptiles, 1 frog, 34 fish, hundreds of marine species, an unknown number of invertebrates and more than 2,800 weeds have been introduced to Australia.

The introduction of foreign plants and animals have sometimes had unforeseen impacts on native flora and fauna. These impacts have ranged from negligible to catastrophic. Many of these introduced species damage and degrade the ecosystem, bring new diseases, prey on native species, and compete with native plants and animals for food and shelter.

Australian Native Animals

Be Gentle with Us We Never Asked to Come Here

Photo: Fox pups (also called kits or cubs)

It is important to remember that these introduced animals never attempted to come to Australia on their own. We, humans, brought them to Australia without due consideration for the impacts of our actions. These animals are only following their natural instincts to survive in their new environment. Yes, some have killed native plants and animals. Yes, they out-compete the natives. But we brought them here and failed to manage them from the very outset.

Some ludicrous unsubstantiated claims have also been made. For example, it is claimed that feral cats kill 20 billion Australian native species each a year! This is surely scaremongering. Sure, there is an issue with introduced species, but very little unbiased scientific research has been carried out to determine the true magnitude and impact of introduced animals on the Australian ecosystem.

Impacts of Animals Introduced to Australia Not All Introduced Animals have been Bad

The impacts of the various introduced animals on the Australian ecosystem have been broadly classified below. Sometimes an animal can be in more than one group. For example, the rabbit is classified as both feral and a pest.

Beneficial - These species have been useful to humans or the environment.
Benign - These creatures have had no noticeable adverse impact on the Australian ecosystem.
Invasive - species have a tendency to spread their range into new areas.
Feral - Domestic animals brought to Australia that have gone wild and significantly impact the ecosystem.
Pests - These animals have a direct negative effect on the Australian ecosystem and are difficult to control.