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Fencing feral pigs out of a nationally significant coastal wetland

Coastal wetlands provide critical habitat for aquatic flora and fauna species, and cultural values for local communities in Australia. The ability for wetlands to continue providing these same ecosystem services in the future is threatened owing to a range of pressures such as agriculture, overfishing, hunting, recreation, water extraction and pollution of water. In addition to these, and increasingly so, are the introduction of feral animals which while also provide a use for humans in some instances (i.e., food substance), introduced populations can easily increase and contribute to wide scale destruction and long term consequences, including loss of sensitive species and habitat.

The Burnett Mary Regional Group for Natural Resource Management funded the installation of an exclusion fence around a large coastal wetland near Agnes Waters, Queensland.  The fence is approximately 3km long, and designed to keep out feral pigs and cattle from accessing the wetland.   The fenced wetland area is part of the Bustard Bay Wetlands Directory of Important Wetlands Area (under the EPBC Act), in recognition of the unique flora and fauna that exist in the area.  Recently a Masters of Philosophy student from University of Queensland recorded the endangered water mouse (Xeromys myoides) in the wetland.  The wetland is also home to a number of migratory birds, fish and freshwater turtles. 

Kirsten Wortel (Burnet Mary Regional Group) said “the fence was completed in November 2016 following many years of noticeable impact from feral animals in the reserve.  We are looking forward to seeing how the wetland responds to these efforts, but more work is still necessary”.

Dr Nathan Waltham (TropWATER, James Cook University) is completing research on the health and condition of the wetland.  Dr Waltham said “we’ve seen the impact of feral animals, particularly pigs, on coastal wetlands all the way along the northern Queensland coastline, including the Gulf of Carpentaria.  The damage caused by pigs not only contributes to local impact, but often sediment from damaged wetland areas is washed during rainfall to downstream areas

Dr Waltham said “we have secured federal government funding through the National Environment Science Program – Tropical Water Quality Hub, which will assist in forming a partnership between Burnet Mary Management Group, Queensland Government and local community, to examine how the wetland condition responds to the fencing.  For me, I am also interested in how the conditions in the downstream estuary, in the fish habitat area, also responds to these efforts”.

Ms Wortel said “this wetland has steadily become impacted over the years, but it’s great to see the fence finally in placeIts early days, but we are excited to track the condition in the wetland over the coming years.  We hope that data from this project site will assist other NRM groups challenged with feral animal management.

For more information contact Kirsten Wortel (Burnet Mary Regional Group) Kirsten.Wortel@bmrg.org.au or Maree Prior, BMRG Biodiversity Team. Maree.Prior@bmrg.org.au. Ph 0417 554 905

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