AS part of the FarmOnline Wild Dog project, which aims to share information, educate landholders and promote co-ordination of management programs, Queensland Country Life commissioned a series of opinion pieces on the topic "how I would manage wild dogs". This first in the series is from Australian Wool Growers Association chair CHICK OLSSON.
RECENTLY while travelling in Cambodia, we visited the landmine museum in Siem Reap, set up by a former Khmer Rouge child soldier, Aki Ra.
He was just 10 when conscripted by communists to fight monarchist forces. More than 6 million such devices were laid throughout Cambodia, a plague today on its people. Aki decided that it wasn’t good enough to wait for authorities and International bodies to act, and started clearing devices by stick and knife by himself, one land mine at a time.
By the time he was noticed by authorities, he had cleared and dismantled thousands of devices. He received further training, and now his team is one of many working to remove these lethal devices from prime farming land. Cambodia is rapidly clearing these mines and re-opening up pristine farming land, now exporting over 5 million tons of rice per annum. It is a great story about wonderful people and their efforts reclaiming highly fertile farming land.
There is a salient parallel here, recognising the power of the individual vs entrenched ideas and orthodoxy of action. For the past 10 years, we have seen migrations of feral and wild dogs across all parts of Australia, and in most cases, have only been able to admire the problem.
Some local governments have set prime examples for us to follow, and some National Parks folk have done a cracking job in their area. However overall, we are plagued by case studies and schemes dreamt up by well-meaning people and organisations, with huge amounts of research, but little tangibility in planting that flag on the hill and shouting proudly “we have won the war”. Far from it.
Recently the National Wild Dog Action plan was launched, formally recognising the “huge impact that wild dogs are having across the nation”. A good effort by WoolProducers and a promising start. I also note some of the valuable research that the Invasive Animals CRC and AWI are doing.
However, nowhere could I find any reference to the “killing and destruction of feral / wild dogs as a prime objective. So let’s begin with a mission statement that is clear, along with some ideas that might help conclude a successful war on wild dogs.
Here's my thoughts:
Mission Statement: We are about killing wild dogs, not about “controlling, managing or researching” wild dog populations. Welcome: The National Wild Dog Kill Program. Empower individuals, to continue with proven kill methods: (a) state dog bounty of $100 per tail/scalp, dog and fox, (b) graziers entitled to 200 per cent tax deductions on all legitimate dog control measures (same with noxious weeds control). Recently, NSW DPI released excellent news on increasing aerial baiting rates to 40 baits per kilometre, effectively killing 90pc of wild dogs in that area. Continue this excellent work and roll it out across all infested areas, helping to control other feral species such as pigs. Make it easy to buy 1080 baits, not difficult. Recent laws to make sure graziers obtain accreditation are counterproductive. Governments are happy for us to join the army and shoot an enemy, but don’t trust us to put out 50 baits or more? Make feral dog and pig eradication a national sharpshooting sport, recognised by schools and local governments as worthwhile pursuits for young people. Set three-year time frames with annual measurement, allowing flexibility of programs.
The whole program is a basic military operation:
1. Selection of area, based on best info and community involvement 2. Carpet bomb forest areas with baits (40 baits/km, at least) 3. Encourage locals to bait on their properties (promote Baiting week, make it a community event) - provide bumper stickers and quality Merino T-shirts: “Kill Ferals and Proud of it". Follow up with pics in papers of biggest dogs and most kills, of most foxes etc. 4. Call in approved trappers and professional shooters to clean up the area 5. Tally all kills and report 6. Move onto next planned area
I would suggest that local communities are rewarded with pecuniary incentives and or public recognition ceremonies in State Parliament House for services to the State, so that this goodwill and good news spreads throughout the nation.
There is genuine intention from most quarters to solve this. Those affected however need results if they are able to run wool and lamb enterprises, still one of the most profitable mixes for pastoral areas.
But like clearing landmines in Cambodia, new farming areas for sheep will not be safe nor profitable until the feral problem is removed completely.