REVEALED: Feral pests devastate Carnarvon’s ancient ecosystem
DEVASTATION to one of Queensland's most unique national parks has been described as if ‘tractors have been there with ploughs’, as visitors to Carnarvon National Park leave in shock at the destruction.
Feral pigs have infested the Carnarvon National Park, between the Central Highlands and Maranoa Regions, and have been ruthlessly feasting on the local flora and fauna.
Swine were first introduced to Australia by the British in the First Fleet of 1788, and while originally intended for domestic agricultural production, they have often escaped and are deemed one of the country’s most damaging pests.
They can be especially damaging to Carnarvon’s unique and rare flora such as cycads (macrozamia moorei) and the rare Carnarvon fan palm (livistona nitida).
Professional horticulturalist Alan Keen has captured the damage on camera, commenting that extensive devastation to the vegetation is irreversible and will struggle to stand strong if a major weather event were to pass through.
“[The soil]’s all loose, it’s normally meant to be held up with roots and vegetation,” Mr Keen said.
“If there was a big rain event up there, that’d exacerbate the situation.”
Mr Keen has an extensive history of working with cycads over the past 40 years and was shocked to discover wild pigs had chewed the trunks of these ancient plants at Carnarvon, causing many of them to fall to the ground during wet weather periods.
“They’re eating roots, insects, anything they can get their hands on,” Mr Keen said.
“I obviously talked to all my hiking buddies about it.
“Every group that went up there from February to now said, ‘yep, pigs are there.’”
What’s being done?
THE infestation of wild pigs has reportedly blown out of proportion over the course of 2020, with both the State Government and visitors noticing the seriousness of the problem.
In the past two years the Queensland Government has spent $100,000 on pest and weed management at Carnarvon National Park, however LNP MP for Warrego Ann Leahy said it’s not enough to protect the unique ecosystem.
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services (QPWS) conducts regular feral animal control programs, with its most recent feral pig program conducted in August 2020,
This baiting program includes trapping and aerial control.
“Across Queensland, feral pigs are a serious environmental threat as they spread diseases and pathogens, trample vegetation, damage wetlands, eat roots and tubers and prey, on a wide range of wildlife,” a Department of Environment and Science spokesman said.
“Feral pigs can also pose a threat to First Nations’ cultural sites, but generally do not have an impact on those contained within the Carnarvon National Park.
“Wherever possible, QPWS works collaboratively with neighbouring landholders, other agencies, community groups and local governments, Traditional Owners, and Indigenous Rangers to control feral pigs.”
Ms Leahy is also concerned about the impact of feral pigs in national parks, promoting the use of ancient Indigenous land management tactics to maintain the environment.
“One area in particular where the LNP are committed to preserving the natural ecosystems is through addressing the threat posed by feral pests and noxious weeds,” Ms Leahy said.
“The Liberal National Party is committed to giving those Queensland Parks and Wildlife
officers the resources and directive to care out their role in managing these feral pests.”
Ms Leahy said the LNP highly values the role of the Indigenous Rangers Program in managing weeds and feral animals, as well as preserving ancient heritage sites.
She said that the program is of ‘vital importance’ and the LNP would look at expanding the project if they form government in Queensland after the upcoming state election.
Ms Leahy believes the State Government’s ‘hands-off’ approach to biosecurity has led to the neglect of native wildlife in National Parks.
“Unfortunately, we have seen that biosecurity threats to our protected areas more broadly have
fallen by the wayside under this State Labor Government,” she said.
“There is no doubting that the status quo when it comes to managing our feral and wild pests within our state’s forests and national parks is failing Queenslanders.
“The Liberal National Party consistently hears from those landholders directly affected by these un-managed feral pests that the situation we currently have cannot be allowed to continue.”
Visitors to Carnarvon National Park can report sightings of feral pigs to the Carnarvon National Park QPWS office on 4984 4505.