Invasive animals


More than 50 animal species have been introduced into Australia since the late 1800s and are now considered invasive animals. Rabbits, feral pigs, foxes, wild dogs and feral goats are of greatest concern to cattle, sheep, lamb and farmed goat producers.

Rabbits

Feral rabbits are estimated to cost Australian farmers more than $110 million annually*. They cause significant environmental damage and are widely distributed in Australia, with the exception of the tropical north.

Feral rabbits:

  • Reduce the carrying capacity of farms by competing with livestock for feed.
  • Damage emerging crops.
  • Reduce plant biodiversity by eating seedlings and killing shrubs.
  • Reduce animal biodiversity by competing with native animals for food and shelter.
  • Contribute to soil erosion by removing plant cover.

MLA is helping support a rabbit research program at the Invasive Animal CRC which includes research to improve the effectiveness of calicivirus to ensure resistance is reduced, new strains are virulent and there is ongoing availability of effective strains of the virus.

Feral pigs

Feral pigs are estimated to cost Australian farmers more than $100 million annually*. They cause significant environmental damage and are found in all states, but are most numerous in NSW, the NT and QLD.

Feral pigs:

  • Contribute to lamb losses.
  • Contribute to managed goat losses.
  • Damage fences and dams.
  • Compete with stock for feed.
  • Damage grain and cane crops.
  • Are potential hosts of diseases.
  • Damage the environment by competing with and feeding on native animals, damaging water sources and spreading weeds.

MLA helped support the development of the new pig bait, PIGOUT, that was developed by the Invasive Animals CRC and Animal Control Technologies.

MLA is continuing to fund research to modify the bait to deliver vaccines and contraceptives and to test a new toxin for incorporation into the bait. MLA funded research is investigating modifications to the bait to improve stability, effectiveness and delivery mechanisms.

Foxes

Foxes are estimated to cost Australian farmers more than $35 million annually*. They cause significant environmental damage and their distribution is very similar to feral rabbits.

Foxes:

  • Contribute to lamb losses.
  • Are potential hosts of diseases.
  • Are Australia's top predators and threaten several native animals.

Wild dogs

Wild dogs are estimated to cost Australian farmers more than $65 million annually*. They cause significant environmental damage and are widely distributed around Australia. Pure dingoes are mainly found in northern Australia and wild domestic dogs and domestic dogs hybridised with dingoes in southern Australia.

Wild dogs:

  • Contribute to lamb and sheep losses.
  • Contribute to calf losses.
  • Contribute to managed goat losses.
  • Harass livestock.
  • Are potential hosts of exotics diseases.

MLA is supporting the Invasive Animals CRC to research wild dog management processes that are economically,  ecologically, and socially informed to provide more effective strategic wild dog management action plans.

Feral goats

Feral goats are estimated to cost Australian farmers more than $7 million annually*. They cause environmental damage and are found in all mainland states of Australia. Largest numbers are found in NSW, southern QLD, central eastern SA and WA.

Feral goats:

  • Compete with sheep for feed.
  • Compete with managed goats for feed.
  • Interfere with controlled goat breeding programs.
  • Carry and potentially spread diseases to managed goats and sheep.
  • Reduce biodiversity by damaging soils and vegetation in the pastoral zone.

Feral goats are also harvested as a commercial resource. The MLA publication Going into goats: Profitable producers' best practice guide provides useful information for producers considering goats as a commercial enterprise.

* Counting the Cost: Impact of Invasive Animals in Australia, 2004. Ross McCleod. ISBN 0-9750979-2-X.

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