Scientists find toxic fungus near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

One of the world's deadliest fungi has been discovered in Australia's far north for the first time -- thousands of miles from its native habitat in the mountains of Japan and Korea. (AFP)
Updated 03 October 2019

Scientists find toxic fungus near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

  • The Fire Coral fungus was found near Cairns in the northern state of Queensland
  • “If found, the fungus should not be touched, and definitely not eaten,” an expert said

MELBOURNE: A highly poisonous fungus, with toxins that can be absorbed through the skin, has been identified for the first time in the rain forest near the Great Barrier Reef, Australian scientists said on Thursday.
The Fire Coral fungus, which is better known in South Korea and Japan as being among the world’s most poisonous mushrooms, was found near Cairns in the northern state of Queensland, scientists from James Cook University said.
“If found, the fungus should not be touched, and definitely not eaten,” said Matt Barrett, an expert on fungi at the university’s Australian Tropical Herbarium.
“Of the hundred or so toxic mushrooms that are known to researchers, this is the only one in which the toxins can be absorbed through the skin.”
If eaten, the distinctive red fungus causes a horrifying array of symptoms: stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and numbness are followed over hours or days by the skin peeling off the hands and feet, and the shrinking of the brain, he added.
It was most likely that the fungus occurred naturally in Cairns, although instances have also been reported from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, Barrett said in a statement.
“The fact that we can find such a distinctive and medically important fungus like Poison Fire Coral right in our backyard shows we have much to learn about fungi in northern Australia,” he added.


Australian government to aid tourism industry as bushfires recede

Updated 19 January 2020

Australian government to aid tourism industry as bushfires recede

  • Recent rains have brought the number of fires burning across Australia’s east and south coast to under 100 for the first time in weeks
  • The Australian government said it will channel A$76 million ($52 million) to the tourism industry

MELBOURNE: The Australian government said on Sunday it will financially aid the country’s tourism sector that’s been badly hit by long-lasting bushfires, as Melbourne braced for downpours at the start of one of its greatest allures, the Australian Open.
Recent rains have brought the number of fires burning across Australia’s east and south coast to under 100 for the first time in weeks, easing a disaster that has scorched an area roughly one-third the size of Germany.
The Australian government said on Sunday it will channel A$76 million ($52 million) to the tourism industry.
Twenty-nine people have been killed in the fires while thousands of animals have also perished.
Fears of smoke from the fires disrupting the Australian Open receded in Melbourne where the year’s first Grand Slam starts on Monday, but the city and parts of the bushfire-ravaged Victoria were bracing for heavy rains.
“Victoria is about to see its wettest two-day period in many, many months,” Dean Narramore from the state’s Bureau of Meteorology said.
More than 780,000 fans attended the two-week Australian Open last year, according to figures from the office of the state’s premier, providing a major influx of cash for Victoria’s economy.
Damages to the tourism industry from the bushfire disaster have approached A$1 billion so far and may go above A$4.5 billion by the end of the year, according to estimates from Australian tourism bodies.
The government said the aid announced on Sunday was “an initial push” to help the country’s A$152 billion tourism industry, an increasingly vital part of Australia’s economy, that accounts for more than 3 percent of annual economic output.
In a joint statement released with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the bushfires have dealt the biggest reputational blow to the Australian tourism industry that it has ever faced internationally.
“Tourism is the lifeblood of so many communities around Australia and it’s absolutely critical that we help to get people back visiting those communities,” Birmingham said.