Tasmania's journal of discovery

Underground terror

By Maria Fletcher | One of the world’s most deadly ants, Myrmecia pilosula — better known as the Jack Jumper, is native to Tasmania. The Jack Jumper (also called the Hopper) ant exists only in Australia and a close encounter can prove deadly to the more than 60,000 people who are allergic to its sting.

It is estimated that around 10 per cent of the Tasmanian population may be allergic to the Jack Jumper, with around 3 per cent suffering life threatening anaphylaxsis if attacked by the ant.

In 2003, the internationally renowned researchers Dr Simon Brown, Dr Konrad Blackman and Dr Michael Wiese of the Royal Hobart Hospital were able to announce that their trial of a desensitisation treatment to Jack Jumper allergy had proven to be 100 per cent effective — praised in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet.

It was, however, to take another two years of innovative lobbying before the Tasmanian government agreed to provide ongoing funding to continue the research program and make the treatment more widely available.

With the announcement that an effective treatment had been found, several allergic individuals began to lobby for access to the treatment. In June 2005, faced with the closing down of the program by December 2005, a lobby group calling itself antallergy.org was formed.

Determined to save the program, the group embarked on a successful campaign using innovative lobbying techniques such as online petitioning and a blog-style web site [sponsored by Leatherwood Online] featuring the photography of Californian photographer and entomologist Alex Wild, shown here.

This campaign to save the internationally renowned Jack Jumper Immunotherapy Programme at the Royal Hobart Hospital inspired Wild on a recent trip to Australia to get up close to the ants, and take powerful images that provide a striking insight into the world of an ancient and deadly creature.

Through his remarkably evocative and sensitive photography, Alex Wild has produced a fine study of Australian ants. His powerful macro imagery also reveals the unique life and world of a creature, which although potentially deadly, is wild, fascinating and astonishingly beautiful.

Enjoy more of Alex Wild’s fascinating photography here.

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