Oct 1, 2007

Feral Pigs - Biggest Problem in Australia

With plentiful food, good climate and lack of natural predators, Australia is the heaven for wild pigs! Australian official estimates that there are about 23 million Feral Pigs in Australia. This figure outnumbers the continent's human population of 21 million. They are creating serious problems in agriculture and rainforest ecosystem.

Feral Pigs are the descendants of domestic pigs. But, with time they have grown bigger tha their ancestors. Now, their average weight is about 150kg. The worst news is that their meat cannot be eaten, due to worm infestation and disease.

Australian farmers are being driven close to financial ruin by these pigs, which congregate in large herds and can charge through electric fences. The animals are estimated to cost agriculture more than £40 million a year.

The pigs have a serious impact on the rainforest by fouling streams and competing for food with animals such as the cassowary bird, which disperses the seeds of more than 100 species of tree. The seeds will only grow if they have passed through the cassowary's gut. But, only 1,200 of them remain in the wild in Australia. So, it is a serious problem for the rainforest ecosystem.

Pig hunting has been popular with rural Australians for decades. But, now amateur hunters are struggling to control the increasing numbers of pigs. This battle against the pigs is increasingly turning professional. Two years ago ex-soldier Paul Smith set up Boar Busters, a professional pig trapping business run with military discipline. Since then he and his trappers have caught and shot 1,200 pigs in the rainforests and farmland. But, that is not enough to control the number.

"There's no question that they are on the increase," said Norman Kippin, from the farming lobby group Agforce. "They are the biggest single problem up here in the wet tropics region and the government won't do a bloody thing about it."


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