Across Australia, feral cats are killing more than 2,000 native animals every minute. The impact of cats and foxes means Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world.
Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) has a clear strategy to save Australia's endangered wildlife from feral cats. In the weekend media, our approach was described as a "radical scheme to save our native creatures" (read the Weekend Australian Magazine article here) - such radical action is required because business as usual will mean more extinctions.
Our strategy is outlined below. We hope you will consider a tax deductible donation to the Friends of AWC (USA) to help tackle the single greatest threat to Australia's wildlife - the impact of feral cats.
1. Establishing a national network of feral cat-free areas
AWC already manages more cat-free land than any other organisation on mainland Australia. Our existing feral-free areas protect some of the largest wild populations of many of Australia’s most endangered mammals such as the Bilby, Mala, Numbat and the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby.
AWC is establishing a network of massive cat-free areas across the nation. Within 12 months, AWC will manage five of the six largest cat-free areas on mainland Australia (including the three largest areas). At Newhaven we are aiming to establish a massive feral cat-free area of around 100,000 hectares - the largest feral cat eradication on the planet.
$500 will fund AWC field staff, including the Newhaven Warlpiri Rangers, to clear almost 20 hectares of feral cats.
2. Implementing and improving best practice feral cat control ('beyond the fence')
In areas that are not protected by feral cat-proof fences, AWC is seeking to limit the impact of feral cats by implementing a combination of:
direct feral cat control including trapping, shooting and indigenous tracking and hunting; and
indirect cat control including the management of ground cover (which makes it harder for cats to hunt) and the conservation of dingoes (dingoes are known to kill feral cats, and may also influence cat behavior in a way that reduces their impact).
In addition, AWC is undertaking ground-breaking scientific research which is designed to improve the effectiveness of existing cat control strategies. In places like the Kimberley and at Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary, in western New South Wales, AWC research has made remarkable discoveries about the ecology and behaviour of feral cats which will help improve future control strategies.
3. Investing in gene drive technology
AWC has signed an agreement with CSIRO to explore whether gene drive technology can be utilized to effectively remove feral cats from the landscape - for example, by causing feral cats to become sterile or to have only male kittens. This is a long-term (decades long) project but potentially our best hope in finding a continent-wide solution to the feral cat crisis.
Initial research priorities include:
(a) cat genomics: completing a high quality genome for feral cats and, in particular, having sex chromosomes mapped and sequenced; and
(b) feral cat mating ecology, dispersal and population genetics: undertaking research required to better understand the population ecology and mating behaviour of feral cats including, for example, how both sexes use the landscape and the extent of multiple mating in females (critical information to ensure the spread of any genetic control).
$1,000 will fund a scientist delivering research in the field for two days.
$500,000 (estimated) will fund the cat genomics project.
Finding an effective strategy to reduce the impact of feral cats must be Australia’s highest conservation priority. If we fail to take action, more of Australia’s unique animals will be lost forever. Please make a tax deductible gift to Friends of AWC (USA) to help address the single greatest threat to Australia’s wildlife – the impact of feral cats.