ABSTRACT

This paper examines the history of aerial baiting in Australia since the first operations commenced in 1946, initially targeting the dingo (Canis dingo). It was believed that dingo populations had proliferated during the Second World War, and posed a threat the re-emerging wool and meat industry. New technologies took advantage of skilled air force pilots, and the surplus of aircraft available post World War 2, to commence an inexpensive, sustained and landscape wide approach to pest management. Aerial baiting has continued to develop as a technology since this time. However, it was 21 years before Australia started the first comprehensive research trial into its efficacy in controlling the target species. The results of these tests that commenced in 1968 were an overwhelming failure. More tests in the 1970s had similar results, yet the broad-scale poisoning of pest species from the air continued. The application of aerial baiting in dingo/wild dog control is believed to have a temporal effect, anecdotally achieving short-term goals towards reducing livestock losses from predation. There is no conclusive data, however, to support this claim. The true impact of aerial baiting on target and non-target native species, and ecosystem function, is potentially great. It is not possible to gain accurate data on the impact of these programs due to the inaccessible nature of the terrain and/or lack of funding for before-after-control-impact (BACI) research and analysis. However, it is possible to conclude from reviewing historical and contemporary land baiting trials, that there is reason to be greatly concerned. Aerial campaigns originally designed to protect agricultural interests have been re-deployed in recent conservation programs, designed to protect biodiversity and to eradicate an increasing number of introduced “pest” species. A review of the scientific and historical data raises concerns about the ethics, inefficiencies, indefinable impacts, and high uptake of baits by non-target species, throughout aerial baiting operations in agricultural and conservation zones. The report concludes that the impact of aerial baiting is essentially incalculable, and potentially environmentally hazardous. The risks of these programs have been greatly understated in published reports and reviews over the past 70 years.

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