Eight years ago, one of the Invasive Species Council’s co-founders, author and biologist Tim Low, joined the Australian Wildlife Conservancy for annual monitoring at one of their reserves in the northern Kimberley, WA. The native wildlife Tim saw was something most of us today wouldn’t even recognise.
‘There was one trap. … I went there just after dusk and there was a Kimberley rock rat inside, so we let that go. A couple of hours later there was something else. It was a quoll, a northern quoll was inside. So we let that go. And I came back early the next morning and there was a scaly-tailed possum inside.’
‘It was just staggering. Three really high quality species of mammal inside one trap in one night. I’ve done lots of mammal surveys across Australia. I’ve never seen anything like that!’
Tim isn’t alone. Most Australians have never seen anything like that. We’ve lost the memory of what this age-old continent is supposed to look like, sound like and feel like.
A melting pot of threats including, of course, invasive species, are driving Australia’s wildlife into extinction.
Cats alone have substantially contributed to the extinction of 28 of our native animals, including the Yallara (lesser bilby) and the paradise parrot. Both are now lost forever.
But at places like the reserve Tim visited, feral cats and foxes are managed so their numbers are relatively low compared to the vast majority of Australia. These places give us a tantalising glimpse into how alive our landscapes can be when we free them from the pressure of introduced predators.
We are lowering cat numbers across new areas by helping local land managers deploy Thylation’s innovative cat control devices called Felixers. The latest versions which we have deployed use machine learning to differentiate between feral cats and native animals and target feral cats with very high target specificity.
With the help of an expert committee we have chosen five areas across Australia to deploy Felixers. The Invasive Species Council offered a total of ten Felixers to these site managers (two in each site) thanks to the support of a generous donor.
Scratching the surface
Of course, while Felixers will hopefully deliver much needed relief to these select local ecosystems, feral cats are a continent-wide problem.
Targeted efforts need to be backed-up with landscape-level management of feral cats by our state and territory governments. The federal government also needs to fix Australia’s deeply flawed environment laws so the impacts of feral cats are tackled with the resources and attention our native wildlife desperately needs – something you can help with right now.