The Northern Territory Guardian newspaper reported a large scale cull in the pristine Kakadu national park. More than 6,000 wild horses, buffalo, pigs and donkeys have been killed in Kakadu national park as part of a new feral animal management plan negotiated with traditional owners.
The cull, conducted by helicopter shooters over 24 days, destroyed 3,654 horses, 1,965 buffalo, 294 pigs and a small number of donkeys.
It is the first aerial cull conducted in the park since 2009, when 6,000 animals were killed as part of ongoing efforts to keep feral animal numbers under control.
The number of feral animals in the park has risen to more than 30,000 in recent years, Kakadu national park’s manager, Pete Cotsell, told Guardian Australia, with between 12,000 and 15,000 head each of horses and water buffalo, increasing at a rate of 25% a year.
Cotsell said the new culling program had been negotiated with Bininj/Mungguy traditional owners as part of a plan that will include mustering some of the feral animals for live export and harvesting more for the pet meat trade.
The latter options would provide commercial opportunities for traditional owners and also ensure enough animals were left to support subsistence hunting, Cotsell said. “We will never get all of them but if we can bring that down to 10% or 20% of what it is now it will help the environment significantly,” he said.
The helicopter shooting was conducted at inaccessible areas of the park and areas of greatest environmental concern.
Aerial culling has been banned in NSW for more than a decade after a public outcry after the shooting of more than 600 horses at Guy Fawkes River national park in 2000. It is still carried out in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.