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Wool Stocktake : AWI Annual Report 2016-17
Parks, Forestry and other public lands have now been, and will continue to be baited; which have not been baited for 20 or more years in some cases, and in others have never been baited. The development and implementation of a Wild Dog Management Plan in Cathedral Rock National Park are a direct result of the NE NSW Wild Dog Facilitator’s negotiation skills and dogged persistence. Early anecdotal reports from producers appear to indicate a sudden ‘pause’ in predation on sheep. No data on reports of wild dog predation was available from Local Land Services at the time of writing. Studies by wildlife researchers from the University of New England are extremely positive in the reduction in wild dog, fox and (possibly) feral cat numbers and the increase in native species is following a strong positive trend. It is early days yet, and more data needs to be gathered, but the early signs are extremely positive. • The NE and Western NSW: Wild Dog Coordinators have developed and now offered for the second year running, a three-day Wild Dog Trapping training course. Conducted near Ellerston, north of Scone in the upper Hunter Valley and at Moorabie Station, 250km NW of Broken Hill, this course has rapidly attained a strong reputation for both content and effectiveness. Since the initial pilot in 2016, 11 courses have been delivered (5 at Ellerston and 6 at Moorabie) with 120 new ‘doggers’ trained at each. In addition, 1 refresher course has been conducted in Western NSW with 20 people attending (at no cost to AWI). In addition to trapping training the course includes units on the use of baits, legal requirements for access to restricted chemicals, the use of new baiting technology (Canid Pest Ejectors); and in a more recent addition, an additional (optional) day covering long range marksmanship has been trialled. Research & Development • Wild Dog Alert: AWI-funded research in wild dog control – the flagship project of which is Wild Dog Alert, the motion-activated camera detection system – is progressing soundly and has met milestone commitments to date. The programming behind detecting a wild dog is essentially complete in terms of simple detection – DOG vs NOT DOG – the principal challenge remaining is to get this information quickly and reliably ‘back-to-base’. Technology currently being developed in-house at AWI and the winning entry in AWI’s Tech eChallenge may provide assistance – at moderate/low cost – in addressing this problem. AWI will facilitate the introduction of the proponents of these projects and the combination of the products of these projects. • RHDV1 K5 – RHDV Boost Plus: In March of 2017, the next round of long-term rabbit biocontrol was implemented with the national release of a Korean strain of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus, known as RHDV1 K5. This virus was released at more than 550 sites around Australia in March of 2017 and many release sites have reported seeing an observed decline in rabbit numbers on their property. The national roll-out of the virus, as part of the RHD Boost project was funded through the Invasive Animals CRC with additional funding from AWI. Preliminary analysis has shown a 42 per cent average reduction in wild rabbit numbers at sites where the new strain was released. This is a promising initial result as the predicted range of reduction was 10–40%. The current below average rainfall being experienced across much of Australia is a slight concern, as K5 was intended to have an advantage in the cooler temperate regions where RHDV1 Czech Strain (released in 1996) was less effective. A strain of rabbit calicivirus new to Australia has been released at nearly 600 sites across the country. It will boost current biocontrol activity that is already impacting pest rabbit populations and help woolgrowers increase their productivity. REPORT OF 2016/17 OPERATIONS – SHEEP PRODUCTION 27
AWI Annual Report 2015-16