Kakadu National Park rangers shoot 6,000 pigs after 3-year hiatus

Kakadu National Park rangers have shot 6,000 hogs as aerial shooting resumes for the first time in three years.

The most effective method of controlling feral hog numbers on the higher end in Australia has not been used since 2019 due to a culling that seriously injured two park rangers.

Specialized staff developed and established new safety measures – after an investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau uncovered a series of safety and communications issues within the park’s management – and allowed aerial shooting operations to resume in May.

Large stray animals such as pigs and buffaloes are causing significant damage to wetlands across northern Australia, as they are potentially disease vectors.

The animals could also be carriers of exotic diseases currently spreading globally that potentially damage the biodiversity, ecosystems and habitats of native species, said Sean Barclay, director of Kakadu National Park.

“The removal of 6,000 feral pigs from the park also contributes to efforts to reduce the risk of Japanese encephalitis detected in the Northern Territory (NT) feral pig population,” Barclay told the Epoch Times.

“Pigs are also susceptible to FMD, so reducing feral populations would be important in the event of any outbreak in Australia.”

The feral pigs were captured by a motion detection camera in the northern region of Kakadu National Park. (Australia Parks)

Aerial culling – shooting animals from helicopters – can be a humane and low-cost way to control feral pig populations.

Trapping, poisoning and ground shooting have had some success, but aerial shooting is the fastest.

The feral pigs came from Europe and Asia after being collected on their way to Australia, according to the Northern Territory government. Their number peaks during periods when green vegetation is abundant, especially after heavy rains or floods.

“In addition to pigs and buffaloes, horses, feral cattle, donkeys and cats are also common in the park,” Barclay said.

“At the request of the traditional owners, we focused our aerial shooting activities on feral pigs, as they were considered a top priority due to damage to floodplains and waterways, but we also removed some buffalo and feral cats.”

Helicopter crash in the process of execution

Three years ago, two zoo rangers were seriously injured when their helicopter crashed in a feral boar slaughter.

The reason was related to Parks Australia’s safety procedures, including the shooter’s harness being three weeks after his retirement date, and a risk assessment that was three years out of date.

Air executions are suspended until appropriate safety protocols are in place.

Barclay said the last time many wild animals were removed was about five years ago.

“More than 6000 wild animals were taken out of the park during a 24-day operation that focused on areas where there are large numbers of horses and buffaloes,” he said.

“The 2017 operation involved removing 3,654 horses, 1,965 buffaloes, 294 pigs and a small number of donkeys.”

Jesse Chang

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Jesse Zhang is a Sydney-based reporter covering Australian news, focusing on health and the environment. Contact her at [email protected]

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