EXOTIC AND FERAL ANIMALS AFFECTING NATURAL AREAS

NATIONAL PARKS ASSOCIATION of NSW Inc.

Policy No: 19

Introduction | Definitions | Policy

INTRODUCTION

Conservation of nature in general, and of individual components (species of animals and plants) in particular, is continually frustrated by the presence and proliferation of exotic animals and plants. These comprise a host of species living in both terrestrial and aquatic environments and ranging over most, if not all, phyla. Exotics are also a serious problem for the farmer, and diminish public enjoyment of natural areas.

There is thus every reason for the entire human community to encourage and support land managers who make legitimate efforts to control or eradicate exotic/feral animals. Like exotic plants, exotic animals (which of course include feral animals - see definitions) have become firmly entrenched in various environmental niches, to the extent that control, let alone eradication, is often very difficult. Part of this difficulty is the danger that native animals can be at risk if certain control methods are used. For this reason, and because maximum effectiveness is so important, research to determine the best courses of action should ideally be undertaken into each exotic species. Managers of natural areas should regard maintenance of the natural systems as paramount, and attempt to control exotics accordingly.

The policy covers all exotic animals, not only those listed as noxious under the Rural Lands Protection Act, 1989. Control will thus need to operate on a priority basis.

The difference between exotic and feral animals is inconsequential in regard to this policy, and the term feral is included in the title only because it is so widely used, exotic being the generic word.

DEFINITIONS

For the purpose of this policy,

POLICY

1. Control and eradication

1.1 All exotic animals in natural areas should be controlled, with the ultimate aim of eradication.

1.2 Control efforts should not be limited to those species listed as noxious animals under the Rural Lands Protection Act, 1989, but should include unlisted farm animals, pets, and other species.

1.3 A priority system should be established to implement the policy of controlling all exotic species, each land manager compiling a list appropriate to the area under his/her control.

2. Research

The biology of exotic species should be studied and populations monitored, to determine:

2.1 the best methods of control or eradication;

2.2 the effectiveness and ecological impacts of control methods on target and non-target species; and

2.3 the ecological impacts of removing exotic species from ecosystems.

3. Planning

3.1 The control and eradication of exotic species should be directed by a comprehensive Species Management Plan for each distinct breeding population (which would be, for instance, continent-wide for cats and rabbits, but local for ferrets or Rusa deer). This should:

3.1.1 cover individuals outside as well as within natural areas, to avoidre-invasion;

3.1.2 integrate research, control and eradication strategies, and ongoing monitoring; and

3.1.3 include assessing the impact of the plan and alternative plans on the environment and on target and non-target species.

3.2 Planning should provide for increased efforts to control or eradicate predators when there is a marked surge or drop in the populations of their food species or alternative food species.*

* a marked increase ("explosion") in population of the food species can lead to a consequent explosion in the population of the predator. A decrease ("crash") in population of the food species may mean that the predator will switch to another population.

4. Methods

4.1 Methods used to control or eradicate exotic animals should be chosen to avoid adverse impacts upon the natural environment and non-target species.

4.2 Methods used by the National Parks and Wildlife Service(NP&WS) should have the approval of the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council, given following any necessary expert advice.

4.3 Methods used by other government agencies should have the approval of the relevant advisory committee or trust, following any necessary expert advice.

4.4 Non-lethal control methods, e.g., those which suppress fertility, should be developed and used preferentially, to avoid unnecessary cruelty.

5. Population statistics

All government agencies should maintain an up to date database of exotic animals living on the lands or in the waters which they manage. This should be

5.1 summarised in annual reports;

5.2 accessible to the public; and

5.3 submitted regularly to the NP&WS as the agency responsible for the care, control and management of wildlife statewide.

6. Funding

Adequate funding for the control or eradication of exotic animals should be provided by both State and Federal Governments.

7. Co-ordination

Co-operation and consultation between the NP&WS (NSW), Australian Nature Conservation Agency (ANCA), other government departments and authorities, both State and Federal, landowners and leaseholders, Landcare groups, and total catchment management (TCM) committees should be fostered and organised so as to secure co-ordination and comprehensiveness in the effort to remove exotics, and to assist in the preparation of species management plans.

8. Reporting

The public and employees of government and other bodies should be encouraged to share, and report to the NP&WS, any sightings of exotic/ feral animals, except where it is known that their presence has already been reported or is very well known.

9. Priority Areas

National parks and nature reserves under the NP&W Act, natural areas on the register of the National Estate, World Heritage areas, wilderness and islands should be high priority areas for the eradication of exotic animals.

10. Legislation

Ultimately, all domestic cats, dogs, and other domestic species with feral potential (except farm animals and registered breeding animals) should be desexed. The NSW Government should enact legislation as follows:

10.1 All cats and dogs must be licensed

10.2 Licence fee structure should provide an incentive to owners to have their animals desexed.

10.3 Farm animals (including impounded feral farm animals) with feral potential, e.g., goats, pigs, deer and ostriches, must be adequately confined, with severe penalties for permitting escape or deliberate release into natural areas.

10.4 Animals which have either escaped from captivity or have been abandoned, and are found in a natural area or over 1 km from their domicile, should be impounded or destroyed, and their owners prosecuted. The fine or sentences should vary with the degree of impact on the environment or wildlife, actual or potential, caused by the escape or abandonment.

11. Control operators

11.1 Control of exotic animals within natural areas should be carried out by the relevant land managers, or by operators strictly controlled by the managers, not carried out by private persons or industries.

11.2 The final objective should be complete eradication of the exotic species, control being an interim objective, an land managers should persist in their efforts.

11.3 Control operators should not be permitted to maintain breeding stocks of exotic animals in natural areas in order to ensure continued employment and harvest quotas.

12. Education

Land management and education authorities (including school), both government and non-government, should develop and maintain a public education program on exotic and feral animals, their impact upon natural systems and species and upon rural industries, and on the responsibilities and methods involved in their control. The program should aim to inspire a sense of community responsibility for the problem and its solutions.

13. Introduction of exotic animals

13.1 Agistment of stock should not be permitted in priority areas such as those listed in 9. above, except for flood refuges proclaimed as such before reservation (i.e., national park) or dedication (i.e., nature reserves) of areas, and then under such conditions as set out in Policy 2.3.3. of the NP&WS Field Management Manual.

13.2 Stock should not be employed in priority areas (see 9. above) to manipulate habitat through grazing. Other methods of weed control etc. should be investigated.*

* Grazing stock, being themselves exotic, hooved animals, can cause immense biophysical damage. Solving one problem, such as weed overgrowth, by introducing another cannot be the best way. Stock spread weeds, pollute water, trample and expose soils.

13.3 Pets or other domestic animals should not be taken into priority areas such as those listed in 9. above, except fully controlled Seeing Eye or Hearing dogs.

14. Dingoes, dogs, wild dogs, "wild dogs", and feral dogs.**

NPA considers the dingo to be a native species (see Feral definition). Therefore, this policy does not include them in its provisions, but NPA foreshadows inclusion in future policy on native animal management.

** Wild dog is a generic term referring to a genus which includes the dingo. There does not appear to be any wild dog in Australia other than the dingo. The term should not be used to mean feral dog or dingo/domestic crosses.

15. Locally exotic Australian fauna

Strictly, native animals should be regarded as exotic when they are introduced to areas significantly distant from their natural home range. This is because possible minor differences in genetic make-up can make them technically different sub-species, and it is regarded as undesirable to introduce species from another provenance to a given area.***

*** This issue is dealt with adequately in the Field Management Manual of the NP&WS, Section 2.2.

Adopted by State Council 4 November 1995


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