Blog 44

Pests typically don’t dominate the larger end of the animal world. They will often utilise the ‘sneaky’ factor to cause their mayhem. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. And one of them is found in the north of this country, in increasing numbers, around the Top End and the Gulf of Carpenteria.

The water buffalo is a common sight in much of Southeast Asia and India. Typically a beast of burden, these large animals are at home in many of the wet conditions that dominate agricultural practices here. They serve such purposes as aiding in field tilling and haulage, and can often be seen dragging ploughs and carts.

They are not an endemic species to Australian shores, however. Introduced around the turn of the century, they were soon replaced with mechanised alternatives. The beasts were then free to roam and breed to their heart’s content. Their numbers now sit close to 150 000, concentrated primarily through Far North Queensland and Northern Territory.

As they exist in such remote areas, they are not easy to quantify. However, their environmental impacts are well-documented. Water buffalo can foul water holes with their waste, and disturb the growth of aquatic plants. Meanwhile, their hoofs can transport diseases and invasive plants to regions further afield.

As such, this uncommon beast has faced some pest control methods of late. A program whereby many animals were either rounded up or exterminated was put in to action between 2008 and 2013, culling their numbers by roughly one-fifth. Pest control personnel in these areas face a continued struggle with this pest, as they attempt to maintain the ecosystem of the far north.