Feral Pig Abatement

Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation is undertaking the project management reduction of feral pigs on Central Cape York with funding support from the Department of Environment.  The outcomes of this project will help maintain ecosystem function, increase ecosystem resilience to climate change, and improve the management of biodiverse carbon stores across the country.  The project is underway in the Archer River basin, Cape York Peninsula, Australia.  The Archer River basin covers approximately 1,400,000 hectares of rivers, swamps, beaches, rainforest, open forest and grasslands.

Within this area there are two main management zones:

  1. The South Wik homelands near Aurukun, on the western/coastal end of the basin; and
  2. The eastern end of the basin near the headwaters at Coen and the unique McIlwraith Range, home to several endemic species and rare bird watching opportunities.

The project engages technical scientific expertise in CSIRO and FeralFix, aerial and shooting expertise from Ferals Australis, Traditional Owners and Indigenous rangers support from APN Cape York and Kalan Enterprises.

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Project Stories

  • Marine Turtles (APN)
  • Pig Trapping and Hunting (Kalan)
  • Aerial Shooting
  • Wetland Damage and Pig Proof Fencing

Archer River Basin Shared Help Desk

  • Trap Design and Materials

Our Objective: Improving Biodiversity outcomes and Carbon Reduction through Feral Pig Abatement

Background

There is approximately 400,000 feral pigs roaming un-managed across the relatively intact central Cape York landscape. The project “Feral Pig Management for biodiversity outcomes & exploring carbon reduction potential of feral pig abatement across central Cape” will support indigenous landholders currently conducting feral pig abatement activities in this area significantly enhance, expand and demonstrate improved biodiversity outcomes from pig abatement activities. This will be achieved through property/landscape scale population and biodiversity monitoring & operational advice/support. Provision of shared services and methodologies across properties will enhance partnerships between these, enabling a move from localised to landscape scale management of the feral pig population & joint exploration of the potential carbon income from feral pig management.

 

Ecological & Cultural Benefits

Pigs are devastating to our country. Australia’s native animals are all soft pawed. Pigs with their hard hooves cause erosion, increased evaporation rates, taint water sources (increase in turbidity, pH etc.), exploit any food source, impact on native vegetation and animals, and destroy crops.  The primary focus of this project is to enhance cultural and ecological values, by managing feral pig populations. By controlling pigs using trapping, hunting, ground shooting, aerial shooting, 1080 baiting and exclusion fencing, the project engages several members of the local Indigenous communities and manages to reduce the pig population.

The ecological benefits we hope to achieve include:  Baby_Turtle_in_palm_of_handKangaroo_near_swamp

Protection of nesting habitat – marine turtles, freshwater turtles, ground/lily nesting wetland birds (magpie goose, comb-crested jacana)

  • Eg.  In 2013 reduced turtle nest predation rate from 100% depredation to 24%, equivalent to 8000 turtle hatchlings surviving, and only on a 10 km stretch of beach
  • Nesting sites for aquatic birds will increase with pigs removed as pigs feed on water lilies and bulkuru, primary nesting and feeding sites for birds such as the magpie geese and comb-crested jacana
  • When swamp turtles aestivate in the dry season they are dug up from the mud and eaten by pigs, directly removing breeding adults from the population

Improving biodiversity and reduce population impacts

Abate the increased wetland evaporation, soil destruction, degraded water quality, seed bank depletion, high erosion and sediment runoff

  • Wetlands would last longer into the season as the evaporation rates would decrease if pigs are removed (pigs create isolated pockets of water on the edges of lagoons which have higher temperatures and evaporate faster than the larger body of water).

Increase wetland resilience

  • The ability for a wetland to ‘bounce back’ to a healthy wetland in the wet season may be affected by the soil destruction and seedbank depletion.

Identify and protect any threatened species

Protect dry season ground cover for small animals

  • Swamp vegetation will dry up and provide habitat for small vertebrates and insects (instead of being large areas of dug up mud).

Prevent potential cassowary nest predation in the McIlwraith Range

Safer Australia from biosecurity threats

  • Pigs can carry several zoonotic diseases. Cape York is essentially the last frontier to invasion of disease into Australia. Pigs are free roaming and could be a devastating vector of these diseases. Controlling pigs reduces the likelihood of exotic disease outbreaks.

 

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The cultural and social benefits are also extensive and often overlooked. This project aims to engage local Indigenous rangers and build their capacity in several technical fields, both scientific and hands on. It provides jobs locally and has proven to help re-connect the people with their homelands, providing a future for the youth and the land. By controlling feral pigs, we can remove them from poison story places where they can make the local people sick by digging up the ground. Important cultural food sources can also be preserved, such as magpie geese and swamp turtles.

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Control methods (trapping, hunting, ground shooting, aerial shooting, 1080 baiting and exclusion fencing) vary in effectiveness and the engagement they provide. For example aerial shooting, whilst critical to a good control program, can be expensive and only engages technical ‘out-of-towners’. Most of the other methods however, engage many locals and often target pigs the helicopter shooting cannot cull. This integrated control method is the most effective way to control pig populations, rather than any one method.

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