Park rangers, pig hunters and pigs: The unruly world of invasive species management and control in a Cape York national park

Biosecurity and invasive species management is an enduring concern for environmental managers in Australia. In Cape York Peninsula, far north Queensland, significant energy, and resources are devoted to controlling the ever-expanding population of feral pigs (Sus scrofa). Reviled for their propensity to degrade and disturb sensitive wetlands through their rooting, digging, pugging, and wallowing, a variety of Cape York land managers engage in pig control. In this ethnographically grounded paper, I pay particular attention to the practices and values around pig control exhibited by Queensland-government employed park rangers who, along with Aboriginal traditional owners, co-manage large tracts of the so-called ‘wilderness’ areas of Cape York. Pigs are considered virtually across the board in Cape York as ‘killable’ pests and are controlled by land managers in various ways both violent and banal: from the use of exclusion fencing to protect particularly vulnerable areas, to aerial shooting, poison baiting, and trapping. Park rangers seek to control pigs within the park boundary and devote a large amount of their budget to doing so. However, park rangers also seek to control pig hunters, whose activities on the park are categorised as illegal and thus are censured. Pigs and pig hunters thus both emerge simultaneously (and contradictorily) as unruly; as requiring control. Through analysing the control of both pigs and pig hunters, it is possible to gain insight into what kinds of landscapes are imagined, valued, and brought into being by Queensland Parks. The world of pig control is revealed to be rife with contradiction, encompassing relations of care and regimes of control. 

Dr Mardi Reardon-Smith is an environmental anthropologist and early career researcher interested in human-environment relations, political ecology, intercultural relationships in settler-colonial contexts, and visual anthropology. She is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation on the ARC-funded project ‘Investigating barriers and pathways to the commercialisation of Aboriginal medicines’. Her doctoral research project, which she is currently reworking into a book manuscript, explores the co-production of environmental knowledges, practices, and care in relation to ‘tricky’ non-human companions in Cape York Peninsula, far northeast Australia, a region of high and highly contested cultural, environmental, and economic values.

Zoom Details:
Meeting ID: 812 1179 0732
Password: 968025

Date & time

Mon 26 Feb 2024, 3–4pm


Room 3.72, Research School of Social Sciences


Mardi Reardon-Smith


Trang Ta


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