On Auckland Islands, to borrow a line from the late Beatle George Harrison, everywhere there's lots of piggies ...

Wild pigs released 200 years ago live throughout the main island, having developed extra-long snouts, perhaps for winkling seabird eggs out of their nests.

They've decimated once prolific bird populations, cleaned out many of the plants and munched most of the invertebrates. Rotting logs are absent, as pigs rip them apart in search of insects and grubs.

Yesterday, four eradication experts set out for the islands aboard HMNZS Wellington, where they'll test pig traps, lures and poisons. DoC's longstanding aim has been to rid the island of all pests, not only pigs but feral cats and mice as well.


The task, which could take years to complete, is not personal.

"The damage is not the animals' fault. As with so many other pests actively damaging our native ecology, at some point they were simply released in the wrong place," says team member Pete McClelland. "If resources existed to trap and remove alive every single Auckland Island pig, I'd say great - let's go for it."

DoC is in contact with Living Cell Technologies, a company using Auckland Islands pigs to develop life-giving treatments for diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

The long isolation of the breed and its freedom from disease makes the Auckland Islands stock unique.

In a project backed by Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, 17 pigs were removed from the island in 1999, but now more are likely to follow.