SSAA in swine fever frontline fight

The SSAA has thrown its weight behind a call from the National Farmers’ Federation for a nationwide cull of feral pigs as the threat of African swine fever (ASF) landing on Australian shores continues to grow.

With an estimated 24 million feral pigs in Australia, the implications of ASF arriving here could be catastrophic and with the disease having already infiltrated southeast Asia, the potential for Australia being next is now all too real.

At last week’s SSAA SHOT Expo in Melbourne, Federal Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie highlighted the dangers posed by ASF and asked Australia’s hunting community to be ever-vigilant to the threat.

Said Minister McKenzie: “This could be devastating for the Australian farming community and I am calling on local hunters to report any sightings of what could potentially be affected animals.”

The SSAA this week contacted the Minister, offering assistance in tackling the feral pig problem. Said Matt Godson, Program Leader for Wildlife Programs at SSAA National: “I have written to Minister McKenzie on behalf of Australia’s largest shooting, sporting and hunting organisation to offer our support in this issue.

“The SSAA is very happy to participate in detection programs as well as spread information regarding ASF prevention to our large membership and wide networks via both digital and print media.”

African swine fever, while not a danger to humans, currently has no vaccine and accounts for roughly 80 per cent of the pigs it infects and the Federal Government has put in place a raft of biosecurity measures to help prevent the disease being imported to Australia. These include increased screening for pork products at airports and mail centres, a ban on the importation of smallgoods containing pork and deployment of airport detector dogs.

The feral pig problem is particularly prevalent in Queensland where the SSAA has taken steps to address the situation. Said Damien Ferguson, president of the Queensland conservation and wildlife management division: “We would happily be part of any culling program. There are two types of shooting - ground and air. Aerial shooting is good for knocking down big numbers quickly and ground shooting is good to mop up.

“Ground shooting needs to be coordinated by teams with the right equipment, resources and time so that what we do is ongoing. You can’t just go out and shoot pigs on properties and not go back for six months or a year and think you’ve done your job. It has to be constant.

“The SSAA has a lot of members who’d be happy to get out there but it depends on what the government is prepared to do by way of resources. In some areas trapping would be beneficial, aerial in other areas, but it would have to be a coordinated effort.

“The key to feral pig control is having a community that’s tight-knit and generally have similar production systems. In areas which are mostly cropping, pigs are a real issue and farmers get together and chip in at the same time, regardless of whether or not feral pigs are on their property at that time.

“There’s always a good result but they never get to zero pigs as there are always some left so it’s a case of reducing the numbers to a level where they’re not having that massive impact.”

The World Organisation for Animal Health has issued a series of guidelines for hunters who may inadvertently be at risk of spreading ASF, including disinfecting your equipment and hunting trophies on site, not sharing home-made products from your hunt and visiting farms only when necessary.

Anyone who suspects they may have encountered an infected animal is asked to contact the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888.

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