Wednesday 25 August 2010

A lot of snobby pigs live in Edgehill, Cairns

If you live in one of the hillside suburbs around Cairns, chances are you've heard or maybe even seen, a feral pig. They're a nasty piece of work, and some of them are getting closer and closer to suburbia.

These wild pigs spread diseases, destroy residential gardens and native vegetation.

Feral pigs have been an increasing problem on Cape York, something mayor Joseph Elu told me about when I visited Bamaga recently.

These wild roaming pigs, are massive beasts, with destructive eco habits. They have a fondness for lilies, a prominent feature of Freshwater Lake, that boarders the Cairns Botanic Gardens and Edgehill, an area now that is getting many locals increasing concerned.

There have been a number of sightings of feral pigs roaming near the Tanks Art Centre, and not just after a heavy metal music performance.

Although they're becoming a serious environmental scourge, they will be better managed following new research into their impact on freshwater areas.

Biosecurity Queensland senior zoologist Jim Mitchell said anyone who travelled through the outback of far north Queensland could see the environmental impact of feral pigs.

“Around almost every water body, be it a creek or lagoon, you will see large areas of ground dug up by feral pigs in search for food,” Dr Mitchell said. “We commonly see groups of 20 to 100 pigs around water bodies in Cape York during the dry season and wondered if the repeated diggings had significant long-term impacts."

One of the areas of most concern for Cairns, is the effect feral pigs have on water systems. This will be no surprise to some hillside communities around Cairns. A recent study has been undertaken at Lakefield National Park, a region on Cape York renowned for its vast river systems and spectacular wetlands.

“Our research defined the damage that feral pigs cause to tropical freshwater ecosystems," Dr Jim Mitchell says. "As expected, feral pigs clearly had a dramatic impact on the ecology of the unprotected freshwater lagoons.”

Mitchell says that the impacts included major destruction of plant communities, particularly water lilies, which were the pig’s favourite food, a plant that is in abundant supply around Edgehill and nearby Freshwater Lake.

"Feral pigs dig underwater to forage for plant tubers,” Dr Mitchell says. “The destruction of aquatic plants and the sediment disturbance significantly reduced water clarity. Pig diggings caused high turbidity levels, reduced the amount of dissolved oxygen and increased the nutrient loads in the water."

The findings were presented by Dr Mitchell, who led the multi-agency study, at the Pest Animal Symposium Gladstone. He hopes that this will help Councils and land managers make better decisions on how best deal with the environmental damage caused by pigs.

“During the research, we compared the water quality between lagoons fenced to keep out pigs and lagoons left unfenced,” Mitchell said. “We measured the abundance of plants, invertebrates and fish in all of the lagoons used during the study. This proved challenging due to the presence of resident salt water crocodiles in some of the lagoons."

An aerial shooting control trial was conducted on one Cape York lake and reduced the estimated population of 2000 pigs by 92%, following which the health of the lake dramatically improved. Water clarity rose over 8% and toxic levels of ammonia dropped by 28%.

Dr Mitchell says that a key finding of the project was that each lagoon and lake system appeared to harbour their own unique plant, fish and invertebrate communities.

“This suggests these wetlands have high conservation value, and these lakes and lagoons contribute to the rich biodiversity of tropical freshwater ecosystems," Dr Mitchell says. "Protection of these tropical wetlands is important to preserve the high biodiversity found in this tropical savanna habitat.”

Last year feral pigs were haunting Kuranda residents, destroying their gardens, that spurred 'Boar Busters' to monitor and manage the pest. Pigs were also reported at East Trinity, Tully and Innisfail. Infrared cameras were installed to track the animals.

If you spot a pig, don't approach it. It will be legged, and dangerous. Please ensure it doesn't resemble a politician before reporting it to the authorities.


Nogreen Norm said...

Typical of the greenie wackjobs, wondering about the "impact" of pigs digging in the ground. How moronic can you be? What about the impact of the world's largest draglines digging 6km holes in the ground so we can send coal to Japan, China, and India? Stupid greenies worried about little nonsensical problems while the big things collapse around their ears.

average citizen said...

Dear Norm,
Are you specifically referring to the Aboriginal Mayor Joseph Elu, or Dr Mitchell? Or to everyone else (most people these days) who has a concern about an environmental issue - other than draglines, that is.

Queenie said...

Little piggies swarming about the Tanks? Would be Alan Blake, Rugnut & Fat Kev out on a cabernet-bender would it?

Alison Alloway said...

When I was a kid growing up in the North, it wasn't too unusual to see the odd wild pig tearing down the street with a pack of dogs in hot pursuit. Ditto a skippy flying over picket fences...or even down the main street, a bunch of excited dogs hot on its heels...
At night, we had the pleasure of listening to a tribe of possums noisily engaged in warfare on our roof tops. Occasionally, the odd possum or two jumped inside the house and adults, kids and dogs went tearing round from room to room banging saucepans, screaming and barking and slipping in possum pee. Then there was the rarer occasion when the night air would be split by the worst blood curdling screams coming from the outhouses....the neighbourhood would suddenly come alive with excited men and boys bearing rakes, spades, pick axes etc and invariably a giant python would be retrieved from the snug outhouse for the entire neighbourhood to marvel over its poor, hacked body for days.
Sorry...just thought I would share some memories of FNQ from the "good ole days."!!!