RESOLUTIONS to farmers’ frustrations with current 1080 bait regimes might soon come in the form of more baits, and new baits.
More baits, because Australian Wool Innovation-funded research has shown that the currently-legislated density for aerial baiting of 10 baits per kilometre is inadequate to stop dog populations growing.
New baits, because the long-awaited PAPP toxin, intended to supplement 1080, is slowly moving through the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) labyrinthine approval process.
Invasive Animals CRC researcher Guy Ballard said the bait density question was answered by the most rigorous study into the question to date.
More than 130 wild dogs were fitted with GPS collars and tracked through five years of wild dog aerial baiting programs. Baits were laid at the current APVMA-approved rate of 10 baits per kilometre, and the old standard of 40 baits/km. Control areas with no baits were also monitored.
“At 10 baits per kilometre, you get 55 per cent reduction of wild dogs, which falls short of the AVPMA’s own standard for control,” Dr Ballard said.
“Forty baits exceeeds it: we get over 90 per cent knockdown of dogs, and over 90 per cent knockdown of foxes, too.
“It exposes that we just didn’t have good information when we legislated for 10 baits per kilometre. We ran the trials we needed to do, and that information can now underpin good science-based policy.”
The wild dog control community is also investing a lot of hope in a new toxin, para-aminopropiophenone or PAPP, which offers an alternative to 1080, especially close to habitation.
PAPP has two qualities: it kills more humanely than 1080 - its action has been likened to carbon monoxide poisoning, which has been likened to going to sleep - and it has an antidote. It is effective on dogs, foxes and cats.
“Where there are gaps in the control program because people are understandably concerned about pet or working dogs, and we’re not getting the broadscale control we need. PAPP is capable of filling the gaps,” Dr Ballard said.
“People can participate in control programs, but if a dog takes a bait while they are out mustering, they can reverse it with no ill effect.”
PAPP registration is ongoing within APVMA. Dr Ballard said “it would be nice to see it next year”.
Helen Cathles, Invasive Animals CRC chair and a grazier, with her husband Ian, at Wee Jasper, NSW, said that how Australia manages its pest animals is becoming as important as a good outcome.
“We export most of our agricultural produce, so we need to have a good humane approach to management and control of invasive species,” Mrs Cathles said.
“If we don’t, people are able to use anything as a trade embargo. We have to be careful about how we do things.”
Between the National Plan, revised aerial baiting strategies and other emerging technologies, Dr Ballard is confident that the wild dog problem can be brought under control.
“We can do it in a considered and balanced way - we can conserve dingoes and manage wild dogs. We can find a balanced solution by involving the various parties involved in management, listening to what they have to say, and underpinning it all with good science.”