Turning pest management from a chore to a community event was a game changer for one tropical fruit farm in Far North Queensland.

Feral pigs are one of the most destructive invasive species in Australia. They're thought to cause an annual estimated damage bill of up to $100 million and have a national population of up to 24 million pigs. Not only do they cause damage to the environment, they cause losses in productivity for primary producers through livestock predation, damaging infrastructure, reducing crop yields and spreading invasive weeds. For more information, check out the National Feral Pig Action Plan.

While feral pigs are an ongoing challenge, tropical fruit farmer Peter Salleras says he sees them more as an asset than a total liability. He has found a solution that helps reduce feral pigs, doesn't waste their carcasses and provides food to friends and family.

The Challenge

Peter is not alone in facing damage from feral pigs; they're spread across approximately 45% of Australia, particularly in Queensland, the NT and NSW.

When young fruit trees are ripped from the ground, irrigation pipes pulled out and soil disrupted, Peter Salleras knows feral pigs are likely to blame. They venture out of the rainforests that border his property at night, feeding on fruit - both fallen and ripped from trees - as well as digging up the ground to wallow and eat roots and grubs.

Peter is not alone in facing damage from feral pigs; they're spread across approximately 45% of Australia, particularly in Queensland, the NT and NSW. 'They've been here for a long time, and they probably always will be here, but we just manage them,' Peter says.

Peter's Far North Queensland farm is home to the native southern cassowary. He had to ensure his pig trapping program didn't risk native wildlife.

Across the country, feral pigs are thought to cause an annual estimated bill of around $100 million in damage, and management can involve everything from trapping to hunting and poisoning. Experts say there's no one right way to control the feral pig problem in Australia, which not only damages the environment and agricultural crops, but creates risk in biosecurity with the potential to spread weeds and disease.

Peter's location amongst the rainforests of Far North Queensland means his farm is not only home to feral pigs, but also plenty of native wildlife - one of the largest being the southern cassowary - so it's vital to ensure his trapping program isn't risking any other wildlife.


Like so many others in regional Australia, Peter's found trapping is one of the most efficient ways to remove feral pigs. However, rather than dump or bury the carcasses, he's turned trapping pigs into just the first step in a larger process of harvesting the meat for human consumption. Peter has made the essential job of feral pig management something that benefits him in more ways than just the baseline removal of a pest.

'We see them [feral pigs] as an asset more than a total liability,' Peter says. 'We're getting rid of a pest, but we're also getting a good feed out of it.'

Trapping and eating feral pigs has been a family affair for the Salleras' for decades now, and they've always focused on it being environmentally conscious and humane.

It's not a quick fix: when Peter sees signs of feral pigs heading into his orchards, he starts the long process of training the pigs to expect food, slowly moving them towards the trap he's laid.

QUICK TIP: If the pigs are causing too much damage to a paddock - by digging up young trees, for example - Peter says hanging a sweaty work shirt, or something with a strong human scent, can keep them away for a couple of days.

Peter starts with several bucket loads of overripe bananas, a favourite of North Queensland pigs and easily accessible in banana growing regions. Over the next 6 weeks, Peter introduces cracked corn he's bought from stock feed stores to the mix.

'I soak it in water for a day with a little bit of molasses in it because it swells up, and you can get a bit more mileage out of your bag of cracked corn,' Peter says.

Peter uses cracked corn rather than bananas for the rest of the process for two reasons. Firstly, once he stops using bananas and only uses cracked corn, it eliminates the risk of trapping cassowaries, which can also be drawn to the bananas and, from anecdotal evidence, have been killed in pig traps in the Far North in the past. Secondly, Peter says cracked corn acts as a finisher, building a sweetness in the meat and making the pork less gamey in flavour.

'We're getting rid of a pest, but we're also getting a good feed out of it.'

Peter free-feeds the pigs over 4-6 weeks, during which time he also adds a pig livestock wormer, which helps rid the pigs of intestinal parasites.

There are many types of traps on the market to catch feral pigs, but Peter prefers to use a fixed-ring trap that drops walls from above once a trigger is hit. It has a trigger on a central pole, concreted into the ground, with walls made of wire mesh. The barriers are able to be stored held upright above the ground, which helps avoid the mesh rusting quickly in the wet environment.

The trap is held by a central pole cemented into the ground and, when triggered, drops a circular barrier to the ground.

The type of trap he uses is specifically designed to be less of a risk to any other wildlife. The trigger can only be tripped by pushing it, something pigs do with their snout, but cassowaries and wallabies don't. To ensure all pigs are captured at once, it's better to not put all the food on the trigger point because if it's hit by the first pig to get close, the slower (and often older and smarter) pigs at the back of the group are likely to get away. In Far North Queensland, Peter says ring traps with a spear gate are too likely to catch non-target species, like wallabies or cassowaries.

Peter also only sets the trap when he knows someone on the farm can answer immediately to it being triggered, so as to not let any pigs be inhumanely held without water or in hot conditions.

From here, Peter quickly shoots the pigs from a cherry picker, the height making it an easier shot and doesn't rile the pigs.

From when Peter decided to set the trap, it became a community event. When it's triggered, he texts neighbours and friends, who come over and help with the butchering process. The highest number of pigs he's caught at once was 10, each 50-80kg.

'Straight away we start boiling the [outdoor, cast iron] bathtub, and sharpen the knives and scold them.'

'We scold them and de-hair them and gut them and then just hang them in a [commercial sized] cold room for about a week.'

They cut the pig carcasses using a bandsaw, and the cuts are shared amongst those who help and those who want some meat.

Peter usually hosts a party for the farm workers, where they cook a whole carcasse over an open fire. They've even had an SBS cooking show host an episode on their farm- Khanh Ong's Wild Food, which you can see in Episode 3.

Is it safe to eat feral pigs? Short answer: Yes

Despite pork being on the menu for many Aussies, getting it from the wild may not have been your first thought. But for as long as feral pigs and other introduced species in Australia have been here, people have been eating them. Dr Diane Barton from Charles Sturt University says that while stigma has cropped up at the idea of eating feral pigs in Australia since the early start of this century, there's no real reason why, if done safely and properly, humans can't consume feral pig meat.

'They do have parasites in them, as every animal does, and as people can on occasion. Most of the parasites that they could have in them are of no consequence to people,' Dr Barton says.

There hasn't been a lot of research done on zoonotic parasites found in feral game in Australia, but Dr Barton says the research that has been done, as well as a lack of reports from the healthcare system, reveals there's no major risk to humans.

As with any meat that hasn't been professionally inspected at an abattoir, feral pig should be carefully inspected and cooked properly, Dr Barton says. 'With 99% of these parasites, so long as you've cooked the meat well, you've killed the parasite,' she says.


Peter's trapping plans are not a quick and easy solution to feral pigs. Each trapping process takes 4-6 weeks, so it isn't an immediate fix. However, Peter says he's not had any evidence of feral pigs on his property for over six months, almost to the disappointment of staff and friends, who look forward to a feed of the pork.

Peter says it is possible to trap pigs faster, or shoot them if the pressure on the land is too much, but ultimately once he starts free-feeding them, they often favour the nightly food source instead of damaging more trees.

'We're getting rid of a pest to our benefit; we're sort of waiting for pigs to come in, now,' Peter says.

Beyond reducing a pest that causes damage to his orchard, Peter says capturing the feral pigs for consumption is something that strengthens his community and reduces the waste of available protein.

'We're getting rid of a pest to our benefit; we're sort of waiting for pigs to come in, now,' Peter says.

One of Peter's mottos on his farm is for everything to have more than one use. By taking a few extra steps in trapping the pigs, he's managed to find a way for a feral pest to also benefit him, his community and the environment.