Fortescue Feral Herbivore Management

The environmental damage caused by large feral herbivores in the rangelands is significant. The impact on native vegetation has a flow-on effect to native species that rely on this vegetation for food and shelter. In dry times, the increased grazing pressure on country affects the viability of pastoral enterprises by decreasing vegetation for domestic stock and their heavy foot traffic has also been the cause of damage to cultural landmarks and Aboriginal sites.

The project will partner with the Pilbara and Meekatharra Recognised Biosecurity Groups that engage DAFWA to deliver the feral donkey program and associated aerial culling operations.

The Pilbara Feral Donkey Program has been in operation since 1998. The program is based on the use of donkeys as “Judas” animals to locate and control feral donkeys by exploiting their gregarious nature. The program was introduced in response to pastoralists concerns about escalating feral donkey numbers and their increasing distribution.

Utilising helicopters, telemetry collars are placed on suitable “Judas” donkeys at intervals of approximately 10 sq kilometres. Tracking runs are conducted to find the “Judas” animal and control accompanying animals. Most effective control can be achieved where tracking runs are spaced approximately five weeks apart and are conducted in the drier months of the year. The number of tracking runs conducted per year as well as the density of collars has a direct effect on the success of any telemetry control program.

The Pilbara Corridors project will expand the numbers of donkey collars on the Fortescue Marsh and adjoining lands with an expected five additional tracking days and control of donkeys and other feral herbivores as encountered.