[ASC-media] Media release: when pigs outnumber people

JCA Media jcamedia at starclass.com.au
Sun Aug 15 08:16:13 EST 2004

National Science Week Media Release

August 15, 2004


In a good year feral pigs outnumber people in Australia - and scientists are racing against time to uncover the weakness in their formidable defences.

According to Dr Steve Lapidge of the Pest Animal Control Cooperative Research Centre, the 'Achilles Heel' approach to pest management is the best option to bring the pest under control.

"Pigs, like humans, are brilliantly adapted to survive in a variety of environments, and they have become a formidable force in many areas of Australia. They are intelligent, resourceful and hardy," says Dr Lapidge.

Australia's feral pigs - often big, black and hairy - are all descended from two strains of domestic pig, European and Asian boar, the familiar pigs on Australian farms.

 "In the first instance, we had a look at the characteristics of the pig which make them uniquely piggy," says Dr Lapidge. "Pigs have strong jaws, they are omnivorous, they have a keen sense of smell and poor eyesight. Mostly, feral pigs feed at night.

"These characteristics led to the design of a bait which really only pigs find attractive" he says. "Tough packaging deters other scavengers; a 'meaty' smell deters herbivores, while a grain matrix deters carnivores. A bright colour serves a warning to creatures with good eyesight, including humans."

Baits for pigs usually contain a toxin such as 1080 poison, but Dr Lapidge says that researchers are confident that a 'pig-specific' toxin exists, adding that a feral dog- and fox- specific toxin has recently been found.

"A previous search of the scientific literature revealed a drug, originally developed as a human medication, which was lethal to dogs", says Dr Lapidge. "Today's electronic data recovery enables us to conduct an extensive search of international research reports, and the project we are launching this year is attempting to find the Achilles Heel for feral pigs," he says.

Dr Lapidge's research into the control of Australia's feral pigs is in collaboration with Animal Control Technologies Australia and funded by Meat and Livestock Australia and the National Feral Animal Control Program.

Dr Lapidge is one of more than 160 eminent Australian scientists available for interview about their work and science in general during National Science Week. For details visit: www.scienceweek.info.au

To contact Dr Steven Lapidge: phone 02-6242 1513, 0401 990 367

For information on National Science Week:
Telephone: 02 6205 0281
Mobile: 0407 781 891
Facsimile:02 6207 0072
E-mail:scienceweek at orac.net.au

For more events in National Science Week 2004, please visit:

National Science Week is supported by the Commonwealth Government Department of Education Science and Training (DEST) and the Department of Industry Tourism and Resources (DITR).

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