War against feral predators is hotting up
The scale of Australia’s feral cat population explosion is such that it is already beyond belief.
They reckon there are somewhere between 2.1 million and 6.6 million ‘free range’ cats prowling the Australian countryside – every night. And according to a recent Weekend Australian article by Greg Bearup, they are killing 272 million native birds annually. (Another 61 million apparently go down the gullets of domestic cats.)
Bearup notes that 30 marsupial species have gone extinct since European introduction of cats and foxes to Australia, and 63 more are in peril.
Stoats and rats
In New Zealand, introduced predators such as stoats and rats have wiped out proportionately more native creatures than anywhere else in the world, and the carnage continues, albeit abated.
Radical remedial measures are required, and after too many years of ineffective action, both countries have declared outright war on the ferals.
Australia’s Environment Minister Greg Hunt wants 2 million feral animals culled by 2020 and is backing the establishment of lots more feral-free safe havens around the country.
The Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) is leading the charge with more than 20 cat and fox-proof fenced sanctuaries built or under construction in environmentally important areas. (The usual strategy is to clear the fenced areas – some enclosing more than 11,000 ha – of feral animals and then repopulate with endangered species.)
There is also talk of mass poisoning – a bit like the rabbit Calicivirus – but that would probably require inoculation of millions of domestic moggies. (Let’s get rid of the lot, I say.)
The New Zealand Government through the Department of Conservation (DOC) is taking an even more radical stand against the fury killers and wants the country predator-free by 2050. That means no more possums (yes, they are an official pest over there), rats or stoats.
More than 100 New Zealand islands have already been cleared of predators and trials are in progress to clear mainland sites without using fences.
The Bowra example
Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary in the south-west corner of Queensland is part of a former cattle station now under control of the AWC. I was there in early June and witnessed a small-scale example of the feral cat explosion.
A three-month trapping program about a year ago involving 10 traps and 10 motion cameras snared just three cats. In the five days I was there this year, volunteer caretaker Mike Gilpin put out six traps and caught four cats – including a huge tom he reckoned at 7-8kg.
“They are extremely cunning and clever animals, and quickly learn to detour around baited cage traps. There are more effective methods to deal with them,” he said with some frustration.
Footnote: Stage 1 of the world’s longest feral cat-proof fence has been completed at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary. Click the following link to donate toward the AWC’s $1 million Feral Cat Challenge.
Natural Images 2018