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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
Pigs provide boring solution
Boars in woodland
The woodland has been largely cleared by the boars
A new weapon is being used in Scotland in the fight against the spread of rhododendrons - wild boar.

The colourful bushes block the light and prevent other plants and trees from seeding.

A herd of wild boar is being used in an experiment on a woodland site near Buckie, in Moray.

The animals scrape around in the ground, destroying rhododendrons by eating their roots.

In just three weeks, they have partially cleared the one hectare site.

We need to make sure they actually dig the stuff up and don't just trample it, otherwise it will grow back with a vengeance

Phil Whitfield
Forest district manager

Forestry Enterprise said the boars, which are on loan from a local farm, could reduce the need for chemical methods to remove rhododendrons.

The tamed animals are close relatives of the boars highly prized in southern Europe for their ability to root up truffles.

Forest district manager Phil Whitfield said the aim was to regenerate forest areas on a small scale to create a more natural woodland environment.

Three enclosures

The experiment, which has been running for three weeks, followed a successful three-year scheme to use the pigs for preparing small areas of woodland for re-seeding.

They have been placed in three half-acre enclosures containing rhododendrons and will be closely monitored to see if they are suitable for the job.

Mr Whitfield said: "We've got some experience that they like rooting things up, but we're not sure if it will work yet and there's a lot of things to consider in the longer term.

Rhododendron roots are a tasty target

"We have to leave them in the area long enough to do the job, but they could also damage the trees.

"We need to make sure they actually dig the stuff up and don't just trample it, otherwise it will grow back with a vengeance.

"There is also a concern that we make sure they don't eat the rhododendrons as they're highly poisonous and we don't want them to overly enrich the area with their manure."

Mr Whitfield said it would be several months before it was clear whether the experiment was worth developing further and three years before it could be judged a success or failure.

Eric Crockart reports
"It could be a neat solution to a costly problem"
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