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Natural toxin aims to control feral pig numbe -

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EMMA ALBERICI: Years of drought mean their numbers are down, but feral pig experts say it won't be
long before the menace is back in force, and they've begun developing a new toxin to control it.

The scientists say the chemical occurs in nature and that it's just a lucky coincidence that the
pigs are so sensitive to it.

Doctor Steven Lapidge from the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre is in Darwin at the
moment to present details of the new product, which has been aptly named HOGGONE.

Our reporter Barbara Miller asked Doctor Lapidge just how big a problem, feral pigs are at the
moment.

STEVEN LAPIDGE: I would imagine that feral pig numbers are actually fairly low at the moment, I
mean I've seen in Australia we've had years of drought, which certainly messes around their
numbers, but feral pigs have an amazing ability to rebound so they can very quickly come back.

The scary thing at the moment is that there are new feral pig populations popping up around
Australia.

So, we know that in recent years Victoria started to see an increase in feral pigs.

Western Australia has a population which is kind of kept in check at the moment. But, you know,
they're increasing in that state as well. And having just returned from a conference in America and
hearing that pigs are surviving in Alaska for example, and breeding, there's really nothing that
will stop a pig from going right over the country except maybe the deserts.

BARBARA MILLER: And the main problem is that they're attacking crops, is it?

STEVEN LAPIDGE: There's an immense amount of crop damage particularly when numbers are high, but
particularly with feral pigs its environmental damage which can be so horrific.

The complete destruction of turtle egg nests, you know the removal of ground nesting birds from
areas where pigs are routing.

And you know long-term effects on plant succession in national parks, and things like that.

BARBARA MILLER: So you're working a new product to try and eradicate these pigs, called HOGGONE.
Just tell me a little bit about that.

STEVEN LAPIDGE: Yeah we've developed a phase one product if you like, called PIGOUT which is a
10-80 bait for feral pigs, but the phase two part of the project is developing a new toxicant,
because there are concerns over the use of 10-80 in Australia.

So the new toxicant is much quicker acting, it has few symptoms and you know for the benefit of
farmers it's also fully reversible.

So if a domestic animal - working dog takes the bait - then they can recover that dog if it does
consume the toxin, and that's a huge step forward for pig control in Australia.

BARBARA MILLER: What's the chemical called?

STEVEN LAPIDGE: That I can't say sorry. It's before the Australian Patent office at the moment.

BARBARA MILLER: Will this chemical if it is approved and you are able to show that it is effective,
will it be expensive to produce in large quantities?

STEVEN LAPIDGE: No it's not. It's an amazing chemical and it's actually a human food product. It's
just a quirk of nature that pigs are sensitive to it. But it's something that we eat everyday,
produced in large quantities already, so that's a real blessing because often when we do find new
chemicals - new toxins, they are expensive to produce but that's certainly not the case with this
one.

EMMA ALBERICI: Doctor Steven Lapidge from the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre speaking
there with Barbara Miller.