Feral violence: The Pelorus experiment
Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space
In early July 2016, two male dingoes were brought by ferry to a small island called Pelorus in the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of north Queensland, Australia, as part of an experimental ‘feral’ goat eradication project. What was remarkable about this project was that the two dingoes released on the island had been implanted with a slow-release capsule containing sodium fluoroacetate, commonly known as ‘1080’. These so-called ‘Tik Toks’, produced by a firm called Scientec, were designed to release their poison into the bodies of the dingoes in approximately 600 days, after they had served their purpose as goat exterminators. The public and political backlash that the Pelorus experiment aroused reveals a gap between the team’s ambitions to ‘set the platform’ for the conservation of ‘pristine’ islands and community sentiment concerning animal cruelty. Just how this ‘bizarre’ experiment (as it was described in State parliament) gained ethics approval is one part of this story. Another relates to implants themselves and what this ‘innovation’ (‘the stuff of horror films’ as one petitioner described it) reveals about attitudes to ‘killing for conservation’. The Pelorus experiment also shows us what is frequently concealed by eradication programmes, which is that they rely not on a single act of eradication, but a cycle of violence that we describe here as a form of ‘feral violence’. In the case of Pelorus, the ‘implants’ tipped Conservation’s motif from the romance of ‘rescuing nature’ to that of horror, imperilling the social licence that conservation projects assume.