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Beyond the Bale : June 2019
ON FARM 49 Having previously worked on several stations and export depots in Western Australia, Californian-born Meja Aldrich already had a good understanding of how damaging predatory behaviour can be for farm operations in the state. But after three years in the role as the state’s wild dog coordinator, Meja now knows more about combating wild dogs than most other people. Sheep producers will be pleased to hear that Meja has recently signed up for another three years. Meja is currently based at Geraldton in the Mid West region of WA. “Since I took on the role three years ago, my focus has primarily been on the Northern Agricultural Region and the adjacent pastoral region across the WA State Barrier Fence,” Meja said. “I’ve held numerous wild dog workshops with DPIRD to promote wild dog awareness within communities. These workshops were my launching point. I could gather contacts, record wild dog data, build relationships and generate conversations. “Leading on from this, I’ve helped establish or strengthen Recognised Biosecurity Groups (RBGs) along the Barrier Fence and help identify and fill gaps in control by Licenced Pest Management Technicians (doggers).” RBGs are groups, formally recognised by the WA Minister, that enable landholders and managers to develop a coordinated approach to control and manage declared pests (such as wild dogs, foxes and rabbits) in their area. RBGs can access funds from a ‘pest rate’ in areas declared by the Minister. At the northern end of the Barrier Fence, Meja helped generate an interest with landholders and DPIRD to form a new RBG, which resulted in the establishment of the Northern Biosecurity Group (NBG) which services the shires of Chapman Valley, Greater Geraldton and Northampton. Skyela Kruger, who started in the coordinator position in April last year, is based in St George. She has been working with woolgrowers and other landholders, as well as Local Government Rural Lands Officers in shires across south-west Queensland to encourage participation in baiting and other wild dog control measures. One of the highlights of the past year for Skyela has been making significant inroads into getting the community onboard with coordinated baiting in the Charleville region. Working closely with stakeholders, Skyela managed to reconvene the Murweh Shire Wild Dog Committee and increase landholder participation in baiting within the shire, which covers nearly 41,000km2 . “I have phoned and sat down with non- participating land managers and new land managers, explaining their pest management responsibilities to them and providing them with local knowledge. One of the biggest issues we face is the number of absentee landlords, so I have been engaging with several foreign-owned properties that have not baited for years,” Skyela said. “By encouraging landholders to be part of In the three years since taking on the newly created position of wild dog coordinator for Western Australia, Meja Aldrich has achieved very significant achievements in previously uncharted wild dog coordination territory. Wild dog coordinator for the south-west of Queensland Skyela Kruger was appointed last year and she has hit the ground running. WESTERN AUSTRALIA QUEENSLAND “The group is taking a proactive and coordinated approach to pest management across the vast area, working with local landholders, doggers and government departments,” Meja said. Adjoining this RBG to the south, Meja helped revitalise the Central Wheatbelt Biosecurity Association (CWBA), which covers Koorda, Perenjori, Dalwallinu and Morawa. “The RBG is now running strongly with doggers working on affected farms, pastoral land and crown lands; the RBG also runs bait rack days to produce 1080 meat baits for landholders,” Meja said. “There has been a significant drop in wild dog activity in the area and farmers are successfully running sheep in paddocks where they were previously losing stock.” Meja has also identified the Midlands as a region that is starting to experience wild dog attacks, and proactively conducted the West Midlands Coastal Dog Project which led to the formation of the Midlands Biosecurity Group in conjunction with DPIRD in October 2018. With an increasing capacity of wild dog control in the Northern Agricultural Region creating self-sufficiency, Meja’s attention is broadening to include other wild dog affected sheep production areas. Meja’s coordinator role is supported and advised by a Project Advisory Group drawn from a cross section of stakeholders, including the National Wild Dog Facilitator, DPIRD staff, and various wool producers. MORE INFORMATION Hear more from Meja in episode 81 of AWI’s The Yarn podcast at www.wool.com/podcast. the solution and making the most of some positive changes in management, participation in the spring baiting increased from 39 to 60 properties, which equates to wild dog control over an extra 300,000 hectares in the shire.” Skyela and other stakeholders have recently been busy with the autumn baiting program that runs across six shires. About 80% of baits are put out via aerial baiting, due to large property sizes and inaccessible areas, such as the heavy timbered mulga country. There is also a wild dog coordinator position for the central-west of Queensland. The position is currently vacant but being filled. The two wild dog coordinator positions are co-funded by AWI, with further support from MLA Donor Company, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the Queensland regional bodies of RAPAD and the South West Regional Economic Development Association (SWRED). Brett Carlsson (Senior Wild Dog Coordinator / North Queensland) along with the two Western Queensland coordinators, speak weekly, working toward building effective coordination and action across approximately 70% of the state.