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Mouse plague threatens valuable seed collections
Feral house mice have invaded Alice Springs – threatening valuable seed collections and plant specimens.
In 2010, Central Australia received the second-highest rainfall amount ever recorded. Alice Quarmby, Seed Bank Curator for the Northern Territory government, is responsible for safeguarding the NT’s important plant species through seed collecting.
‘The rainfall has resulted in prolific flowering and seed production in plants across Central Australia, providing an increased supply of food for many animal species,’ says Alice. This has resulted in a boom in animal populations, both native and introduced.
Unfortunately, one such species experiencing a boom is the feral house mouse. They have bred to large numbers and are wreaking havoc in businesses and residents of the Alice Springs region, where the NT Seed Bank is based.
‘House mice are able to squeeze through minute openings, and are adept at climbing up benches and through cupboards,’ explains Alice. As house mice are mainly seed eaters, they pose a large threat to seed collections awaiting processing.
‘We have spent a lot of time and effort in collecting these species – it would be heartbreaking if these collections were destroyed by mice. We have had to come up with novel ways to allow the seed collections to dry, yet prevent access by mice at the same time,’ says Alice.
Alice is pleased that her collections have remained relatively unscathed up until this point in time. ‘I will continue to treat the collections with increased care until the threat is over and mouse numbers return to normal,’ she add.