Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Island's feral pig eradication is complete


A controversial two-year program to eradicate feral pigs from Santa Cruz Island is complete, Nature Conservancy and National Park Service officials announced yesterday.
Calling it a “major step toward the ecological restoration” of the largest of the Channel Islands, park officials said the 96-square-mile island is now free of pigs.

“Based on extensive monitoring over the past year we believe the island is pig-free,” Dr. Lotus Vermeer, director of the Santa Cruz Island Preserve, said in a statement. “We are now well on our way to restoring the biological balance of the island and saving unique species found nowhere else on Earth.”
Officials decided to conduct the $5 million eradication program, which involved aerial hunting, walk-in corral traps and ground hunting with tracking dogs, in order to save the endangered island fox and nine rare plants from extinction.
The project raised the ire of animal rights activists, including In Defense of Animals (IDA), a national nonprofit organization that decried the eradication effort as a “bloody massacre.” IDA filed a joint lawsuit against the Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service in 2005, but failed to persuade a federal judge to grant a temporary or permanent injunction.
Park officials said they considered alternative options, such as bringing the pigs to the mainland, but said that risked spreading disease to domestic livestock. Contraceptives and sterilants have not been proven effective in the eradication of pigs, officials added.
A professional hunting firm from New Zealand killed 5,036 feral pigs using non-lead bullets, following euthanasia guidelines established by the American Medical Veterinary Association, Park Service authorities said.

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