In the late 1990’s, a scientific ‘pig-exclosure’ project was established in the Cape Tribulation section of the Daintree National Park. The project involved the construction of an 80 metre square fence, anchored aggressively to the ground with steel trimmer bar and pegs. The site selection encompassed much of the very restricted, endangered and previously studied laurel, Endiandra cooperana.
The purpose of the project was to collect comparative data, inside and outside the exclosure, to quantify the adverse impacts of feral pigs upon seedling recruitment rates of an endangered plant species.
Criticisms of the project at the time included the accessibility by piglets into the exclosure through the mesh squares, the obstruction to cassowaries in a known corridor, proximity to two roads and the contention that even blind Freddy could see that pigs were damaging to seedling recruitment rates.
Despite these concerns the project proceeded and there it remained for many years. Eventually, the land manager agreed to remove the construction, but was so under-resourced it dismantled only one corner section and middle panel on each side, leaving around eight 30-metres sections of fence in the rainforest, where they remain to this day.
In around the year 2000, another scientific study was carried out in the vicinity of the pig-exclosure project. This one sought to capture the primitive rainforest macropod, Musky-rat Kangaroo Hypsiprymnodon moschatus. The methodology required the placement of several hundred metres of plastic barrier through known habitat, stretched to form walls with strategic openings every thirty or so metres. The animals would familiarise themselves with the openings and after a period of adjustment, cages would be placed at the openings into which the animals would be herded by the research scientist. Once caged, they would be analysed and genetic material collected from hole-punched tissue from the ears of specimens.
More recently, another similar project was transferred to the same locality from rainforest in the Cyclone Larry affected areas. Different plastic barriers were constructed, for the same purpose, but this time the project sought to map the liberation of captured animals by gluing a cotton reel to the released subjects so that the thread would leave a variety of passages that could be compared relative to the adjacent roadway, to determine whether roads had a quantifiable impact on evasive mammal behaviour.
All very interesting projects, but why are the researchers abandoning their materials in the forest?