Environment Magazine

And This Little Piggy Went Extinct

Posted on the 23 November 2021 by Bradshaw @conservbytes

Back in June of this year I wrote (whinged) about the disappointment of writing a lot of ecological models that were rarely used to assist real-world wildlife management. However, I did hint that another model I wrote had assistance one government agency with pig management on Kangaroo Island.

And this little piggy went extinct

Well, now that report has been published online and I’m permitted to talk about it. I’m also very happy to report that, in the words of the Government of South Australia’s Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA),

Modelling by the Flinders University Global Ecology Laboratory shows the likelihood and feasibility of feral pig eradication under different funding and eradication scenarios. With enough funding, feral pigs could be eradicated from Kangaroo Island in 2 years.

This basically means that because of the model, PIRSA was successful in obtaining enough funding to pretty much ensure that the eradication of feral pigs from Kangaroo Island will be feasible!

Why is this important to get rid of feral pigs? They are a major pest on the Island, causing severe economic and environmental impacts both to farms and native ecosystems. On the agricultural side of things, they prey on newborn lambs, eat crops, and compete with livestock for pasture. Feral pigs damage natural habitats by up-rooting vegetation and fouling waterholes. They can also spread weeds and damage infrastructure, as well as act as hosts of parasites and diseases (e.g., leptospirosis, tuberculosis, foot-and-mouth disease) that pose serious threats to industry, wildlife, and even humans.

And this little piggy went extinct

I have to admit that the model is fairly simple — it’s not age-structured, and assumes several unknown parameters. However, it appear realistic based on what’s been happening on the ground on Kangaroo Island over the last few years. More importantly, the cost estimates associated with different combinations of summer and winter aerial culling, baiting, and on-ground shooting are what the agency used to justify their funding requests.

And this little piggy went extinct

Without the dosh, it was pretty much assured that the little piggies would not only persist on the Island, they would also expand and end up doing a lot of ecological damage.

But we’re not done yet. In fact, we’re developing an age-structured model (led by Honours student Pete Hamnett) with a lot more nuanced functionality that will hopefully assist the agency to eradicate feral pigs once and for all from the island in a few years. We also think that the model will be easily transferable to other areas with a little modest tweaking to local conditions.

CJA Bradshaw

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog