A reduction in feral pig numbers in the Cassowary Coast is contributing to a rise in the region’s iconic, namesake bird.
The Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) is leading a coordinated feral pig management effort, which involves aerial shooting, as well as ground shooting, baiting, trapping and exclusion fencing.
Since 1 July 2017, more than 3000 pigs being culled on the top of Tully Gorge.
The primary reason for the feral pig program is to reduce the risk of feral pigs spreading Panama tropical race 4 (Panama).
However, an unexpected bonus has been an increase in sightings of Cassowaries in the target area.
“It’s a great side-effect of the program,” said ABGC deputy chair Leon Collins, who established and co-ordinated the aerial shooting campaign.
“Not only has it discouraged illegal hunters and their dogs from entering the area, but it’s reduced the number of pigs eating Cassowary eggs too.
“As for the effect on banana plantations – most people had no idea of the level of pig pressure we were under before July last year.
“In the first three months we took out almost 700 pigs and we are still getting fairly big numbers.”
Mr Collins added that, initially, many people doubted they would be able to target pigs from the air in banana plantations.
“It just goes to show how resilient our growers are because, with their help, it has become the most efficient control method we have, with no biosecurity footprint on the ground.”
Local conservation group C4 (Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation) noted there were potentially a number of contributing factors to a rise in the number of reported sightings of cassowaries, including increased awareness.
However, President Peter Rowles said a reduction in feral pigs certainly helped cassowaries and their environment.
“Pigs can be serious competitors for food especially in times of short supply, as well as damaging creeks and increasing erosion. While cassowaries are important dispersers of many rainforest species, seeds eaten by pigs are chewed and won’t germinate. ”
Mr Rowles said C4 have anecdotally noticed an increase in cassowary numbers in areas around Tully Gorge, Tully and Mission Beach, both as chicks (‘stripeys’) and as sub-adults who have left their dads.
“It is very encouraging that cassowaries seem to be surviving but we can’t be complacent. Cassowaries still face many threats because their habitat is limited and fragmented and so many are still hit by cars or mauled by dogs. Removal of one threat by reduction of the numbers of pigs is a good step forward, benefitting both the banana industry and the environment.”
C4 would like to encourage people to be aware when driving, to keep dogs restrained in cassowary country and to report sightings of cassowaries in all areas to build up a better picture of numbers and distribution. Sightings can be reported to the Department of Environment and Science on 1300 130372 or C4 on 40687197.
The concerted effort to control feral pigs began when the pest hit plague proportions last year, resulting in ABGC and local banana growers jointly fund professional shooter Trevor Williamson and pilot Peter Liddle to conduct aerial shooting.
ABGC has contracted Mr Williamson to co-ordinate the Banana Industry’s part of the Cassowary Coast Regional Council’s Feral Pig Management Program.
“The aerial shooting has allowed us to hit the critical number where we are actually starting to have an impact on the breeding number of feral pigs,” he said.
The Council’s Pig Management Program has Queensland Government pig funding so as to reduce the risk of Panama spreading across the wider Cassowary Coast Region and it includes people from the ABGC, Council, the Tully and Innisfail Sugar industries, National Parks and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
As at December 20, the total number of pigs killed by the banana industry in the target area since 1 July 2017 stood at 3225. This included 1737 pigs controlled through aerial shooting and 1488 pigs controlled by farmers, through trapping and ground shooting.
For more information about C4 (Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation), visit
For more information about the Australian Banana Growers’ Council, visit