A comparison of land ravaged by the Prickly Pear, before and after the introduction of the cactoblastis. IMAGES: Biosecurity Queensland

AN historic documentary has re-emerged telling the story of how a group of determined Australian scientists executed what is still hailed today as the world’s greatest triumph of biological pest control.

The Conquest of the Prickly Pear details the eradication of the Opuntia, a type of cactus that was brought to Australia on the First Fleet.

Colonisers who arrived with Captain Arthur Phillip introduced the feral species with the intention of using the fruit to make clothing die, but as the documentary explains, the prickly pear spread wildly out of control.

Following WWI, a team of scientists lead by entomologists from the University of Queensland embarked on the ambitious task of travelling to South America to bring back eggs from the cactoblastis moth, which it was hoped would attack the prickly pear on a large scale.

The project was a rousing success, but what The Conquest of the Prickly Pear video does not detail is how the cactoblastis operation was centered around the town of Chinchilla.

The Cactoblastis Memorial Hall at Boonarga and “The Shanti” Bug Farm outside Chinchilla stand today as monuments to the achievement of eradicating Australia’s most notorious biological pest.

YOUTUBE: Joel Floyd
IMAGE: The Shanti Bug Farm monument

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