Australia Will Cull Two Million Feral Cats To Protect Native Animals

A Numbat. S J Bennett/Flickr. CC BY 2.0

The Australian government has declared "war" on its feral cat population. Federal Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt announced that two million feral cats will be killed to save Australia’s threatened wildlife. The threatened species strategy was announced at Melbourne Zoo on Thursday.

Cats were first introduced to the continent in the 17th and 19th centuries by settlers. Since then, the population of wild cats has ballooned to at least 15 million. These feral cats have threatened the survival of over 100 native species in Australia and contributed to the extinction of at least 27 mammal species.

“Over time, plants and animals that once thrived on our continent have been pushed to the brink. We need to step in, for their sake and for ours,” said Greg Hunt in a statement. “That means humane culling of one of our wildlife's worst enemies – feral cats.”

The strategy will pursue a “science-based approach” by using evidence-based decision making, setting out clear actions and building partnerships. In the next five years, the government aims to cull two million feral cats by using poison baits and working with local governments to scale up cat eradication and management programs. Hunt hopes to also "harness" the power of citizen science with a new app that will record feral cat sightings nationwide.

The government will build 10 cat-free safe havens for species most at risk, apply control measures across 10 million hectares of open landscape and intervene in emergencies. The government committed $6.6 million to the project, but are encouraging others who are passionate “for the bush and its wildlife to contribute as well.”

Hunt announced the first 10 mammals that have been identified for “priority action,” which includes the numbat, mala and mountain pygmy-possum. Ten birds will also be prioritized, which includes the helmeted honeyeater, hooded plover, and eastern bristlebird.

[H/T: The Guardian]

Image credit: S J Bennett via Flickr. CC BY 2.0

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