By Sonia Campbell
The number of feral pigs culled from the Tully Valley in the past two years to help reduce the risk of spreading TR4 has surpassed 4300.
The major milestone was reached through a co-ordinated eradication program that began in July 2017, involving aerial shooting, as well ground shooting, baiting, exclusion fencing and trapping.
ABGC deputy chair Leon Collins and professional shooter Trevor Williamson continue to co-ordinate the program which involves regular aerial shoots across the Tully/Murray Valley catchment, supported by growers undertaking their own on farm eradication measures.
“On one of the most recent aerial shoots we got 112 for the weekend and then the following weekend we got another 50 all in one morning, which is amazing,” Mr Collins reported.
“We are also moving into other areas, treating these areas and we are now baiting in hard to reach problem areas and getting good numbers. As of July 29, the total number of pigs taken out in high risk TR4 zones was 4388, since July 2017.”
In March, the Department of Defence also commenced a program of night shooting for feral pigs on their Tully training grounds, while the State Government have increased eradication activity in National Parks’ land.
More funding critical
The ABGC has committed significant funding towards the continued management strategy, while about 10 growers – both banana and cane – have personally-funded the on-going campaign to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. Tully Cane Productivity Services have also funded part of the aerial shooting effort.
Mr Collins, who also heads the Feral Pig Management Working Group, said continuing to fund the program was now the biggest concern, with funding allocated by the State Government in 2017 to assist in the eradication fight quickly running dry.
“We are running out of funding. We’re rolling into year two now where we’ve got to start taking in the whole Murray/Tully catchment (as a condition of the government funding pledge) and next year we are supposed to roll out to Innisfail, but there is not enough money to do that,” he said.
“ABGC will continue to lobby government on behalf of industry to seek additional funds to continue the program, which is providing critical protection to our national banana industry, as feral pigs are a known vector of Panama TR4.
“If we cannot get additional financial assistance from the state or federal governments, we will not be able to roll the program out into year three.”