Review of existing Red Fox, Feral Cat, Feral Rabbit, Feral Pig and Feral Goat control in Australia. II. Information Gaps

Final report
Ben Reddiex, David M. Forsyth.
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004

6. Methods

6.1 Information gaps

We considered both the amount and reliability (Reddiex et al. 2004) of knowledge available for the following four areas:

  • Monitoring techniques; are there techniques for monitoring changes in relative and/or absolute abundance of the pest animal as a consequence of control?
  • Effectiveness of control; are there control programs or research studies documenting the effectiveness of the commonly-used control techniques in terms of changes in the abundance of the pest animal and/or residual densities?
  • Costs of control; have the costs of the commonly-used control techniques been documented?
  • Benefits of control for native species/ecological communities; have the benefits of pest animal control for native species and ecological communities been investigated in a reliable (sensu Reddiex et al. 2004) manner?

6.2 Native species for which there is limited information

Based on the last point in 6.1, we identify the native species for which there is limited information on the benefits of control. We focused on the benefits of control for native threatened species/ecological communities (under the EPBC Act) for which the pest animal species is a known or perceived threat, and then identified any other species/ecological communities for which information was available.

6.3 Priorities for filling information gaps

Our priorities for filling information gaps were as follows. First, if there were no adequate methods for monitoring changes in the abundance of the pest animal then it would be pointless attempting to understand the effectiveness of control and the benefits of control for native species/ecological communities. Hence, the development of monitoring techniques would have the highest priority. Given that adequate monitoring techniques are available, we believe that the next highest priority is gathering reliable information on the benefits of pest animal control for native species/ecological communities. Obtaining information about both the costs and effectiveness of control were given a low priority because that information could be collected during ongoing control work and/or the proposed experiments.

6.4 Experimental design

Since the most reliable information is obtained by experimentation (see Reddiex et al. 2004), we propose experiments that will yield reliable information about the benefits of (i) feral goat, (ii) feral pig, (iii) feral rabbit, and (iv) fox control for native species/ecological communities. It was not possible to propose experiments for feral cats as there are no reliable techniques available to estimate their relative or absolute abundance.

Our experimental design should be applied to a set of control operations selected to enable the most robust experiment to be designed. The data from each experiment should be incorporated into a meta-analysis (Osenberg et al. 1999) and/or system model, with new data continually updating the analyses/model and thus knowledge about the benefits of pest animal control. In this design, data from control operations conducted at great distance in both space and time are analysed simultaneously. We thus see our broad designs as being a template for the design of pest animal control operations in the future. Hence, the acquisition of knowledge should be seen as an ongoing component of future pest animal control operations rather than something generated by a one-off experiment.

Since the reliability of inferences using this design increases with the number of control operations that they are applied to, the onus is on funding agencies to impose these designs on the pest animal control operations that they fund. We therefore give indicative costs for conducting the experiment at just one area. The actual costs will depend on the area(s) where the work is conducted, and the charge-out rates of the organisations involved in the work (charge out rates used in this report ranged from $500-$900 per day). The indicative costs should be interpreted with caution and used for general budgeting purposes only.