Feral pigs in the spotlight; national, state and local voices in the mix

Feral pigs in the spotlight; national, state and local voices in the mix

With talk about the National Feral Pig Action Plan hitting the headlines, the Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group was keen to raise awareness of local engagement on the plan and how WA has got a head start with its own pig strategy and local efforts.

"Dr Heather Channon, the National Feral Pig Management Coordinator, should be commended on her consultative approach," said Dr Jonelle Cleland of the Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group (PHBG).

"Dr Channon hit the ground running. I was surprised that a newly appointed national coordinator would jump on the phone and seek direct input from community groups. Moreso, the PHBG is located in Western Australia and is a relative newcomer to the feral pig space compared to other longstanding groups.

"I had the opportunity to explain that feral pigs are being reported as an increasing problem, from the hills to the lowlands. Beyond the significant damage to horticultural crops, pastures and natural areas, some members of the public are frustrated, and even frightened, by the criminal element associated with the illegal seeding and harvesting feral pigs. Property damage and threatening behaviour is not uncommon.

"The PHBG also was able to explain to Dr Channon that building local capacity to monitor and control feral pigs using humane and effective methods was a high priority for the group. The PHBG has already hosted two TAFE accredited courses on vertebrate pest management in the region. This has seen Central TAFE come down from Carnarvon to deliver the week long course to community members, field officers and private contractors active in the region," she said.

Recently, the PHBG purchased an innovative trapping system developed by a local WA couple. Following the five step mantra of pre-feeding, pre-feeding, pre-feeding, pre-feeding and patience it assisted two landholders working along their shared property boundary to trap a mob of pigs that were damaging the creekline and surrounds.

"You just need a couple of wins like this to hopefully bring others on board in an area. Indeed, State and national governments have a role in bringing good news stories together and packaging them for general consumption. This will help to increase wider support for community groups that are putting in the hard yards and adopting best management practices," Dr Cleland said.

Dr Cleland was also quick to point out the strong drive of Dr Peter Adams, from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, to see the adoption of the WA Feral Pig Strategy and the bringing together of key stakeholders as members of an inaugural steering group.

The Department facilitated the initial meeting of the steering group. However, the Department is not going to perform this function in an ongoing capacity - it wants the steering group to be a self-driven collective of private, commercial and community interests that advocate for change.

"The PHBG certainly recognises the power of bottom up advocacy. At the same time, it also does not want the State Government to step out. The State Government is well placed to fund an independent facilitator to make sure these sorts of groups function well. It takes skill to bring a diverse set of stakeholders together to develop a shared vision and to keep things moving at a good pace.

"Critically, the State Government needs to be sitting at the table as the manager of vast tracts of land in this State.

"There is also an ongoing need for government backed research, development and extension on monitoring and control options for all our costly invasive species, including feral pigs. Industry and community are keen to assist with applied research but they cannot be expected to run robust trials without funding," Dr Cleland said.