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Technology provides boost in tackling feral animal problem

An aerial survey covering more than 180,000 ha of south-west NSW has used thermal imaging technology for the first time to track feral pig numbers.

The Western Riverina Pig Program provided such strong data that the results were used to destroy nearly 4,500 feral pigs as part of an aerial shooting program late last year.

The program covers 1.3 million hectares of the Western, Riverina and Murray Local Land Services regions and is funded by the Federal Government’s 2015-16 $3 million Pest and Weed Drought Funding program.

It is a joint initiative that also involves the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the NSW Department of Primary Industries Water, as part of the Nimmie-Caira project in the Murrumbidgee region.

Project coordinator, Michael Leane of Riverina Local Land Services said the project began with an aerial survey using an infra-red thermal camera mounted to a helicopter in August last year.

“This was the first time a survey of this size has been carried out in Australia to monitor feral pigs,” Mr Leane said.

“We filmed 900 km of flight path over 180,000 ha within the project area and the results were incredibly accurate compared with other monitoring techniques.

“By using the helicopter and thermal imaging, we also gained access to areas that we simply couldn’t reach from the ground and we now have baseline data to track progress in our feral animal control programs over the next two years.“

Last November, the results were used to guide a two-week aerial shooting program that saw 4,416 feral pigs destroyed by a highly-trained Feral Animal Aerial Shooting Team using two helicopters.

The program involved the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the NSW Department of Primary Industries Water, as well as private landholders who volunteered to take part.

Tupra Pastoral Company in the Riverina was one of the private holdings involved in the program, with David Rankin, manager of Tupra Station, providing accommodation for the team involved at the shearing quarters on the property near Oxley.

“Our company likes to be involved in the aerial shooting program as it is the most efficient way to control large numbers of feral pigs,” Mr Rankin said.

“In a matter of hours, hundreds of pigs can be destroyed, then we use varied ways to control the balance, including hunting, trapping and baiting, to achieve the best result.

“It will be great to see more landholders taking up the incentives offered through the project over the next two years.”

ENDS

Media contact: Donna Ambler, Communications Officer, 0427 486 875