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Success in Tully feral pig fight

13/August/2021
More evidence of farmland recovery, with large pig wallows from 2017 (before) compared to rejuvenated paddocks (after) due to reduced pig pressure.

It’s been four years since a concerted feral pig eradication program began in the Tully Valley to help fight the spread of Panama TR4 and the results are quite remarkable.

From the air, not only are wild pig populations reduced, but areas of land once littered with pig wallows, crop damage, erosion and general environmental destruction are visibly regenerating. 

The co-ordinated feral pig management effort has been led by the Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) and has involved aerial shooting, as well as ground shooting, baiting, trapping and exclusion fencing in high-risk, TR4 zones across the Tully/ Murray Valley catchment. 

ABGC deputy chair Leon Collins and professional shooter Trevor Williamson have co-ordinated the Cassowary Coast Panama TR4 Feral Pig Program since July 2017. In that time, Mr Collins said more than 6300 pigs had been culled from the area, including almost 2900 through aerial shooting. 

“It’s no wonder the farmers were having such pig pressure, because the numbers of pigs out there were much more than what we thought, Mr Collins said. “The methods that we used in the past (to reduce pig populations) just weren’t keeping up.” 

Mr Collins said that initially many doubted whether the program would work. However, with the support of growers, it’s resulted in substantial outcomes. Since July 2017, growers have conducted their own ground-based pig control methods – at significant financial cost – suppressing pig numbers on their farms by more than 3400. 

While controlling feral pigs is seen as crucial to the containment of TR4, the program has also resulted in other benefits to the environment, crops and surrounding wildlife. 

“The landscape is a lot cleaner now, particularly next to the World Heritage land. Sedimentary run- off has been reduced in a massive way, particularly in the top of the (Tully) Valley, you can see how pristine the creeks are running now and also into the river, and it’s because of the less pressure from pigs,” Mr Collins said. 

“Another important benefit has been the increase in cassowary numbers, because there has been less predation of cassowary eggs and their young,” he said. 

Trevor Williamson added that it was essential the program continued to maintain control of pig numbers. 

“We are at a crucial point where the majority of the hard work has been done and we can more easily maintain these low numbers now,” he said. 

“When we started, we were shooting every weekend, but recently we have been doing every six weeks to two months on these farms. But we need to maintain these numbers, and in order to maintain this level, we need to cull 70 per cent of numbers consistently.” 

“Pigs reach sexual maturity at around 25 kg, so as soon as they reach 25kg they are up to that reproductive size. So, it is a massive achievement for the banana industry to do what it has done, because people just do not understand how hard it is to control feral pigs.” 

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