Grants assist pastoralists cull camels

Grants assist pastoralists cull camels


Recognised Biosecurity Groups have received funds to manage the feral camels, donkeys and horses that are plaguing the pastoral stations in their regions.


IT isn't much money in the scheme of things but three Recognised Biosecurity Groups are happy to receive any funds they can get to manage the feral camels, donkeys and horses that are plaguing the pastoral stations in there regions.

Pilbara Regional Biosecurity Group (PRBG) executive officer Bill Currans said the recent Dry Conditions Response Grant of $50,000 from the State government would help keep an aerial shooter in business for five extra days of the year, which would help toward controlling the pests.

Three applicants were successful in receiving the grants including the PRBG, Meekatharra Rangelands Biosecurity Association (MRBA) and the Goldfields-Nullarbor Rangelands Biosecurity Association (GNRBA).

Together they will share in $150,000 provided to assist feral animal management and control endeavours to protect the condition of the rangelands, livestock and pastoralist's enterprises.

Large feral herbivores, such as camels, have plagued the rangelands in recent months, as a result of above average temperatures and below average rainfall.

Mr Currans said camels had been coming off the desert by the thousands and "popping up everywhere" in search of water and food and knocking down fences and destroying water points.

He said they would become territorial over the water in such a way that they would block access to water points for cattle, creating major issues for pastoralists.

Mr Currans said the PRBG undertook14 days of aerial culling each year across five of its 355 member stations and the extra funds would see that push out to 19 days.

"It costs about $10,000 per day for the helicopter and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) authorised shooter," Mr Currans said.

"It is an expensive exercise but vital to keep numbers down in the area."

Some pastoralists have had to shoot hundreds of camels on their property as they migrate through looking for water.

Mr Currans said for the past 20 years in the east Pilbara, they had been operating a "Judas Program" which involved a radio tracking collar fitted to a donkey.

With a receiver in the helicopter they were able to pinpoint the donkey and cull all those that it had "mobbed up with".

They carry out the cull as part of the program four times a year.

"Between November to March it is too hot," he said.

"We don't do it in the wet season or during cyclones and storms either.

"So usually in October and at other opportune times."

Mr Curran said in the past 20 years the PRBG had culled about 18,000 feral donkeys through the program.

"We have also culled about 2000 camels," Mr Currans said.

"Camels can travel about 70 kilometres a day.

"They move fast and wreck water points, tanks, troughs and fences.

"One day a pastoralist reports them on his property and the next they are gone."

The GNRBA will also use the $50,000 towards its culling program, through aerial or ground culling, depending on the logistics and the environment at the time of identifying the pests.

GNRBA executive officer Michelle Donaldson said November was usually the most suitable time to cull the feral pests in their region but it depended on the availability of the qualified DPIRD shooters.

While there had been speculation about the number of feral camels in WA she said all the group knew was that there were "a lot of animals out there".

"There could be hundreds of thousands of camels," Ms Donaldson said.

She said the group was hoping the State government could amend the law to allow pastoralists to use semi automatic rifles in aerial culls when it was necessary due to the low number of qualified shooters available in DPIRD and the urgency of destroying the pests when they are seen.

The MRBA said the Dry Conditions Response Grant would assist them in bringing forward their usual three year cull from 2020 to this year.

MRBA executive officer Geoff Brooks said the $50,000 would be added to the groups $40,000 supplied by its members to undertake a camel cull in October or November.

"It's leaving it a bit late considering the numbers that have come off the desert but it will allow us to bring forward our program," Mr Brooks said.

He said they also had another program to control feral donkey numbers which were consuming a lot of feed and causing damage to infrastructure and vegetation.

Mr Brooks said about four stations had made two attempts to cull the donkeys and in the past 18 months, destroying 1500 head.

State Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the government had "moved quickly to provide pastoralists with the extra support they require to expand their control endeavours".

She said it had been a challenging season for many pastoralists and these grants will enable them to take evasive action to protect their land, their livestock and their businesses from the potentially devastating impact of these feral animals.

"We are aware that there is interest emerging in harvesting camel meat and this may present a different opportunity in future years," Ms MacTiernan said.

Mr Currans said some camels had been butchered to assess the quality and quantity of meat but said there wasn't much meat on them and harvesting it may not be a viable option.


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