How feral pigs are being managed on Kangaroo Island in South Australia

Feral pigs are likely to be the third invasive pest species eradicated from Kangaroo Island. Here’s how.

With the distinctive thudding sounds of helicopter rotors in the air, a group of detestable rogues – thinking that they’re camouflaged in the thick wilderness undergrowth – are in the sight of a highly-trained aerial marksman, equipped with military-grade thermal imaging technology.

What may sound like the plotline of an action movie is actually the latest method in the fight to eradicate the most destructive feral animal species from one Australia’s largest islands.

Why are feral pigs a problem?

Feral pigs cause millions of dollars of damage to farms, and destroy fragile habitat that’s home to dozens of threatened and endangered native animals.

On Kangaroo Island, it’s land that’s still recovering from the devastating 2019–20 summer bushfires.

While much of western Kangaroo Island was devastated by the bushfires, one of the silver linings was a significant reduction in the number of feral pigs on the island, down from an estimated 5000 before the fires to about 450.

How are feral pigs on Kangaroo Island being managed?

In a recent Australian-first trial for feral animal management, more than 120 feral pigs have been culled on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island.

The two-week trial used military-grade thermal imaging cameras and an aerial marksman, and it’s been a huge win in the battle against feral pigs.

Of the 126 pigs culled in the trial, 95 per cent were detected using this new technology. Only 5 per cent were able to be seen with the naked eye, which proves the effectiveness of the technology.

With the capability of the technology now proven in finding the last remaining feral pigs in national parks and wilderness protection areas in western Kangaroo Island, a tender has been undertaken to engage a private operator to complete the cull of the remaining few.

This will also be complemented by the existing baiting and trapping program.

The eradication of feral pigs from Kangaroo Island will significantly help the bush and threatened native animals recover much faster from the 2019–20 summer bushfires.

The program to eradicate feral pigs from Kangaroo Island is a three-year partnership between Primary Industries and Regions South Australia, National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Kangaroo Island Landscape Board and the Australian Government.

What other feral animals have been managed on Kangaroo Island?

Concentrated efforts over the past two decades have already seen feral goats and feral deer banished from Australia’s third-largest island, with feral pigs set to join that undistinguished list.

Did you know feral rabbits are also a problem in some areas of South Australia? Read our story for all the details: Everything you need to know about feral rabbits in South Australia.

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