National Feral Pig Action Plan

Northern Territory

Find out more about feral pigs projects taking place across Northern Territory.

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Anindilyakwa Indigenous Protected Area, Groote Archipelago

Anindilyakwa Quarantine and Biosecurity Program – Land Council Land and Sea Rangers

Location: Anindilyakwa Indigenous Protected Area, Groote Archipelago, Northern Territory

The Anindilyakwa Indigenous Protected Area encompasses 10,000 square km of land and sea country within the Groote Archipelago, located 60km off the East Arnhem Coast in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Groote Archipelago is free of wild populations of feral pigs, however there are two “domesticated” pigs that live in separate communities on Groote and Bickerton Island. The Anindilyakwa Land and Sea Rangers undertake monitoring and community engagement talks to ensure people are aware of the serious impacts there would be to the environmental, economic, social and cultural values if feral pigs were to establish there.

Darwin

Enhancing surveillance of the Northern Australian feral pig population for African swine fever and other high impact pests and diseases – Charles Darwin University

Location: Darwin, Northern Territory

With support from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s (DAWE) Biosecurity Innovation Program, Charles Darwin University will conduct this project to obtain richer information on population dynamics in Northern Australia, extending previous work to include northern Western Australia, the Gulf region and Cape York Peninsula.  This project is due to be completed by June 2021, with $297,000 of grant funding provided by DAWE.

Impacts of aerial culling upon the behaviour of the pigs left behind and in surrounding unmanaged areas – Charles Darwin University

Location: Darwin, Northern Territory

This project was undertaken in the Northern Australian wetlands through a PhD program (Shandala Loving) from Charles Darwin University, Northern Territory. Adapted satellite tracking devices, fitted on to collars worn by individual feral pigs, were used to follow pig movement and habitat usage before and after aerial culling events. Significant changes were found in habitat usage of feral pigs that were not culled which could reduce their detectability in the future and potentially increase the spatial spread of disease.

The project also assessed how the genetic relatedness of feral pigs was impacted upon by management. Specifically, whether aerial culling created a vacuum effect which could increase the rates of pig immigration from surrounding unmanaged areas. It was found that feral pigs in areas with a history of intensive management were far less related than feral pigs in areas with no history of intensive management. This is suggests that aerial culling can create a vacuum effect, with pig population recovery in these areas resulting from breeding of the original, unculled pigs as well as high rates of immigration from surrounding unmanaged areas.

Northern Australian Quarantine Strategy

Location: Darwin, Northern Territory

The Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) is a multidisciplinary program under the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. NAQS utilises a risk-based approach to conduct surveillance for exotic animal pests and diseases across northern Australia. With offices in Cairns, Darwin and Broome, NAQS works with a wide network of stakeholders including the northern jurisdictions’ Departments of Primary Industries/Biosecurity, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander rangers, research institutes and primary producers, to keep a TopWatch! for the north of Australia.

As part of their surveillance program, NAQS conducts feral animal surveys across northern Australia, using low-level aerial operations to observe and destructively sample a range of feral animal species. Post mortems are conducted on euthanised animals, and blood samples routinely collected for exotic disease exclusion testing. Any unusual findings receive a full disease investigation with additional diagnostic testing. NAQS also conducts ad hoc disease investigations in animals in response to reports from key stakeholders, such as Indigenous ranger groups. Of the feral animal species present in the north of Australia, the largest proportion of species sampled and tested by NAQS are feral pigs – this is due to their relative abundance and capability to be suitable hosts for a number of exotic animal diseases including foot-and-mouth disease, surra (Trypanosoma evansi) and African swine fever.

NAQS has a long history of collaborating with researchers, and is currently collaborating with Charles Darwin University to improve feral pig surveillance in northern Australia using population genetics and drones.

NAQS Animal Health Surveillance team includes 6 full-time veterinarians and 1 surveillance officer, supported by field operations officers and community liaison officers.

In the Northern Territory, NAQS has 3 vets (2 Darwin-based and 1 Katherine-based) and typically conducts 6-8 feral animal surveys each year.

Maningrida

Learning on Country

Location: Maningrida, Northern Territory

In Arnhem Land, feral pigs significantly impact flood plains, wetlands, billabongs and water quality, and adversely affect native magpie geese populations.

The community-driven, school-based Indigenous ranger-facilitated Maningrida Learning on Country (LOC) program targets remote Indigenous students and disengaged young people, and links Australian curriculum subjects with field- based Indigenous learning and data collection. The Maningrida LOC program has been in place for 10 years and is federally funded through the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

A pig research project, that commenced in April 2019 and due to be completed by December 2021, is an example of training of Indigenous students in best practice management of feral pigs. It aims to apply knowledge to reduce biodiversity, environmental and biosecurity threats associated with feral pigs through engagement to influence community behaviours. Junior rangers set up camera traps, use GPS collars to understand feral pig movements, trial different trapping methods and investigate the use of various bush food baits in different areas to attract feral pigs into traps. The plan is to use traps annually to catch pigs as an additional method to ground and aerial culling to keep pressure on the population. This project is being managed by a local steering committee in Maningrida.

Traditional owners and elders are involved in this program to demonstrate to students what country should look like once pressures from feral animals have been removed. Understanding of local values, balance between biodiversity and healthy country, and the importance of feral pigs to local communities are being worked through with traditional owners and elders. A community awareness campaign in Maningrida about impacts of feral buffalo and pigs is to be run by the students, with posters to be erected through the community in language.