Remarkable chopper footage shows herds of pigs rampaging through delicate waterways in national parks across Queensland’s Cape York.
Dozens of animals can be seen bolting away from surveyors perched inside the aircraft. The edges of the creek were clearly already damaged before rangers arrived to try and stop them.
The vision was released following a Department of Environment (DES) mission to cull feral animals destroying waterways and killing wildlife. More than 2000 pigs were shot dead during an operation that occurred between December 1 and 4.
Images show the impact pigs have on a fragile landscape that has not evolved to adjust to cloven hooves. Water becomes muddied, and the ground is denuded by their occupation, but their destruction trails also make them easy to track.
Feral pigs have a destructive presence inside national parks. They are known to compete with native animals for food, and their omnivorous diet means they eat native plants but also birds, insects, frogs, small mammals and reptiles.
Conservationist welcomes cull of 'highly destructive' pigs
CEO of the Invasive Species Council, Andrew Cox, welcomed the cull, noting Cape York has the highest density in Australia.
“They’re like mini-bulldozers,” he told Yahoo News Australia. “They upturn the ground for roots, insects and grubs, so they’re a serious problem for many plants and animals. Like feral horses they’re eco-system transformers - they’re highly destructive.”
National Parks and Wildlife officers focused on conservation areas where pigs were having the “greatest impact” in Oyala Thumotang, Rinyirru and Lama Lama National Parks, collaborating with Aboriginal Joint Management.
What happens after the pigs are shot?
Pigs were shot from choppers by marksmen with high-powered firearms. They then circle around to check for signs of life. Bodies are left on the landscape to degrade or be eaten by crocodiles.
Once pig populations decline, the natural habitat is given a chance to recover. A month earlier 155 feral pigs were shot near turtle nesting habitat in eastern Cape York.
Calling the pigs “highly destructive", senior pest management ranger Dan Mead said shooting such a large number of pigs was a “fantastic outcome” for the “immensely valuable wetland areas that form the lifeblood of the Cape York landscape”.
“Poor water quality is a major threat to the health of the Reef, and many of the wetlands targeted act like nature’s kidneys by improving the water quality for the inshore areas of the far northern section of the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.
“Removing feral animals from these wetlands is critical and contributes enormously to the quality of land-based water run-off by providing well-functioning landscape scale filters that capture, and trap sediment and nutrients, which would otherwise end up on the Reef.”
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