Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Respected Viewpoint - and a note on population dynamics

Timely!   This month's BBC Wildlife magazine (March 2013 vol 31/3) features an interesting article on the Cull Debate for several UK species of animal.  Included in the piece is a section on wild boar that we feel you may be interested.  Friends of the Boar were interviewed.

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Here's the relevant boar text:

"At least cormorants have the RSPB to fight their corner. In any discussion of culling, it's noticeable that birds have more friends than mammals.  The wild boar of the Forest of Dean, for instance, have just a few die hard activists, in the shape of Friends of the Boar, campaigning to stop an ongoing cull.

The differences between this issue and the cormorant one is striking.  Though views about how to deal with cormorants may be polarised, there is at least agreement about the impact they're having.  In contrast, nobody can even agree what status the wild boar has in Britain.

Historically, the wild boar was native, bit it had probably died out here by the end of the 13th century.  The animals that have recolonised areas such as the Forest of Dean escaped, or were let loose, from game farms, and are described as "feral" by some (but not all) scientists.  So are today's boar native or non-native?  Wild or feral?

Then there are disagreements over boar numbers.  The Forestry Commission says there are more than 600 in the forest of Dean; it wanted to reduce that number to 400.  Friends of the Boar says there are only 100-200 animals: quite a difference.

There's also the issue of what impact boar have.  When they first recolonised, botanists voiced concerns that Britain might lose its bluebell woods.  According to David Slater of Friends of the Boar, this has not been the case.

"Boar dig up grassy amenity areas, picnic spots and gardens," he tells me, "but not only are they good for forest ecology, they provide wildlife watching and photographic opportunities.  The Forest of Dean sorely needs sources of revenue like this."

But there are other issues to consider, not least the impact of boar on agriculture.  Ian Harvey, the Forestry Commission's wildlife manager in the Forest of Dean, says that one farmer lost £20,000 over 3 years through boar raiding his wheat field.  What the government and farmers fear most, however, is the transmission to pigs of diseases such as classical swine fever.

Since the Forestry Commission began shooting boar in 2008, the cull target has risen steadily - from 30 in the first year to more than 150 in the fourth - in response to the target species' perceived population increase.  "The problem," Harvey says, "is that wild boar numbers can increase very sharply over a short timescale."

"Indeed," he adds, "biologists have noted that boar are the only large ungulate in the world with the population dynamics of rodents.  We've seen litters in every month of the year and we've killed sows with up to 12 foetuses.  You need to cull 70-80% of the population just to stand still."


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The rest of the article covers other animals, and if you wish to read it click on the images and hopefully you have good eyesight to read the small print!

Friends of the Boar gave answers to many of the questions the author preferred to leave unanswered, such as feral versus wild, and this we will cover in a forthcoming post very soon as promised.

We will also post a piece shortly on how the population dynamics cited in this piece is simply a nonsense.

The Forestry Commission met with Friends of the Boar and this topic was discussed.  So we are disappointed that Ian Harvey can present such silly population figures to BBC Wildlife.  It seems that some people just cannot understand simple maths or concepts, and this now includes one new animal "welfare" group here in the Forest of Dean who now support the Forestry Commission in the promotion of large numbers of boar being culled each year based upon such silly estimates on paper.

1 comment:

  1. Its a fair decision in many aspects but many livings and their whole life are dependent on these animal breed. It must be used in a way which will not harmful to anyone.