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The natural resources of the Tiwi Islands are the Tiwi people’s most valuable asset. They form the basis of traditional activities and underpin economic aspirations. The introduction of feral animals, weeds, and other pests and diseases places the biodiversity of the islands at great risk, compromises fledging enterprises, and destroys hopes for an independent Tiwi economy.

Cane toads and African Big-headed ants are currently not on the Tiwi Islands, but their introduction would have an immediate and devastating impact on biodiversity. Weeds such as Gamba grass (Andropogon gayanus) and Mission grass (Pennisetum polystachion) out-compete native grasses and increase fuel loads, resulting in more intense fires late in Kumunupunari, the dry season. Gamba grass is currently not on the Tiwi Islands, but its introduction could lead to fuel loads up to seven times higher than native grasses. Fire management is an important land management tool on the Tiwi Islands, and it is vital that weeds like Gamba grass are not introduced.

The Tiwi Land Council has developed a Tiwi Islands Quarantine Policy and Tiwi Islands Quarantine brochure and implemented a range of quarantine initiatives. In 2003, the Tiwi Land Council won the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service Regional Quarantine Award for its work in quarantine activities and awareness, and in 2005 the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service Commendation for Outstanding Service to Quarantine.

How do pests travel to the Tiwi lslands?

On clothing:

  • Weed seeds clinging to fabrics.
  • Soil and fungus on boots and shoes.

In luggage:

  • Ants in cases, boxes or on food.
  • Soil, weeds and weed seeds in cases or boxes.
  • Containers of water carrying Cane toad eggs or tadpoles.
  • Fish tanks and bowls with water weeds and diseases.
  • Ants, Cane toad eggs or tadpoles and fungus in pot plants.

In freight:

  • Ants in containers, vehicles and machinery.
  • Parasites on pet crates, or on domestic animals.
  • Soil and debris in vehicles and machinery.
  • Water pooled in freight and machinery containing Cane toad eggs or tadpoles.
  • Soil and debris in and on containers.
  • Weed seeds in construction materials such as sand, gravel and rock.

Keeping the Tiwi Islands free of pests

Please DO NOT take plants and animals to the Tiwi Islands unless authorised to do so by the Tiwi Land Council.

Before you travel: Check your clothes and shoes for seeds and soil, especially if you have recently been in an area where weeds occur.

Before you send freight and construction materials: Thoroughly check and clean all items and inspect hollows or hidden places. Don’t leave freight sitting around in areas where ponded water, weeds or introduced animals are present.

Before you barge vehicles, boats, heavy equipment: Thoroughly check and clean and be especially vigilant about areas where water can pond. Check tarpaulins, hollows and hidden sections.

Before you bring plants: Plants must come from a certified clean nursery. DO NOT take back-yard pot plants to the Tiwi Islands as they can spread invasive ants, cane toads and soil-borne diseases. For more information about nursery quarantine, and pest and disease management, visit Nursery and Garden Industry and Nursery and Garden Industry Australia


Feral cats are believed to be a key factor in the rapid decline of native small mammal populations across northern Australia and are having a devastating impact on the unique wildlife on the Tiwi Islands. Tiwi people want the islands to be free of feral cats. Domestic cats cannot be transported to the islands without special permission from the Tiwi Land Council

Cats and Wildlife on the Tiwi Islands brochure

Cats and Wildlife Don't Mix poster

Nyirramangi Pijikati poster

Caring For Cats poster

Cat Ownership and Small Mammals on the Tiwi Islands brochure

Biosecurity in Northern Australian 

The Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) was established by the Australian Government in 1989 to provide an early warning system for exotic pest, weed and disease arrivals from countries north of Australia.  Since 1990, the Tiwi Land and Marine Ranger Programs have provided a frontline surveillance and monitoring contract service to NAQS.