Pigs wreak devastation ‘worse than cyclone Yasi’
HORTICULTURALIST Peter Sargent, who founded and runs the Whyanbeel Arboretum, has created a Garden of Eden in his 40 hectares that produces heliconias, gingers plants and bromeliads for the markets.
His renowned property supplies a substantial part of the local market.
But these days when he walks his hectares of a morning it is not a paradise.
Feral pigs are running rampant, threatening the sustainability of his business which has so far survived for decades.
His property backs on the Dividing Range and the World Heritage Area.
There’s nothing to stop bands of feral pigs roaming his property, and they do, lately much worse than ever before.
In one night – in fact, in a just a few hours – they can stomp and root up lengthy rows of his plants.
Rows 100 metres long are flattened and destroyed. Where plants reaching 5 metres high were standing, they are flattened as if a steam roller has gone through.
“It’s worse than cyclone Yasi,” Mr Sargent says.
In other places it looks like a spaceship has landed. The pigs’ ravages leave brown patches where their favourite varieties of plant once thrived. Not a leaf remains. They can do this in an hour or two.
Mr Sargent walks his land wondering how many more nights of damage his business can stand. He needs something and quickly.
There are several pig traps on the property but they are not doing enough.
“The shire council for at least 20 years have been doing trapping here but it’s at least 120 years that people have tried to entice pigs into traps,” he says. “So we need another angle of attack.
“The pigs are so wise to trapping. They have educated their generations for 10 years not to go near a trap.
“So what we need is a system where the council pays a certain amount of money like they did in the ’30s and ’40s for bringing in sets of ears or tails and they get paid a bounty over the counter.
“Because otherwise what’s happening in all these areas is that the populations are increasing 10-fold every year.
“It’s getting so out of control now that most people in most of the areas that back on the World Heritage Area have problems each winter.”
He says that the administrators of the World Heritage Area need to do more to abate the pig problem.
Although various organisations and bureaucracies are well funded, not a lot is being done on the ground.
And while experts toss around huge sums of money as being necessary to improve water quality in the run off from the land into the reef lagoon, mainly seeing farming as a big contributor to poor water quality, in fact it is pigs doing the damage to the waterways which ends up on the reef.
“Around here it is generally not the cane farms,” he says.
‘There’s no ground being dug up and there’s no drainage from cane farms – it’s from the pigs. The pigs are in the creeks, pigs are digging up the ground every time it rains.
“All of these minor creeks that run into the bigger creeks feeding out into the reef, they’re all really pig infested,” Mr Sargent says.
Peter Sargent in one of his devastated plant rows, which runs 100 metres long
One of the traps on the Whyanbeel farm. Its offering of pig favourites is left untouched by the feral intruders, who long ago learned to avoid the traps despite the temptations.