Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) has completed construction of the world’s longest feral-cat proof fence at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary in central Australia.
Completion of the fence is a critical step in establishing an initial feral predator-free area of 9,390 hectares (23,000 acres). This will be the largest cat-free area on mainland Australia. Covering a diversity of habitats ranging from spectacular quartzite ranges through to rich spinifex sandplains, this feral-free area will deliver a substantial increase in the population of at least 11 nationally threatened mammal species.
Construction of the 44 kilometre (44 miles) fence has been a massive undertaking – it involved installation of over 8,500 fence pickets, rolling out 400 kilometres (248 miles) of plain wire and 130 kilometres (80 Miles) of mesh netting, and the application of over 1 million fence clips.
The next step: removing feral cats, foxes and rabbits
Across Australia, feral cats kill millions of native animals every night. Cats and foxes are the primary reason why Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world.
The next step at Newhaven is to remove feral cats and foxes from within the 9,390 hectare (23,000 acre) area surrounded by the fence. AWC’s Newhaven Warlpiri Rangers bring a unique set of skills to this task – they are among the best cat trackers in Australia.
Already, over 60 feral cats have been removed from within and around the fenced area (see map). Our aim is to remove all feral cats and foxes, and reduce rabbit numbers to insignificant levels, before the end of 2018.
Preparing for the return of threatened mammals
The AWC science team is preparing to undertake the largest threatened mammal translocation project in Australian history – the reintroduction to Newhaven of at least 10 threatened mammals which have become regionally extinct.
A small population of Mala (Rufous Hare-wallaby) has already been reintroduced to a special purpose 143 hectare (353 acre) area at Newhaven.
An additional translocation of Mala will happen in the next two months, highlighting the importance of the Newhaven project in saving this species from extinction.
Priority translocations in 2019 include the Bilby, the Burrowing Bettong and the Golden Bandicoot.