Nav: Home

New research: Feral cats now cover over 99.8 percent of Australia

January 03, 2017

Feral cats cover over 99.8% of Australia's land area, including almost 80% of the area of our islands.

These are just some of the findings of new research which looks at the number of feral cats in Australia.

The research was undertaken by over 40 of Australia's top environmental scientists and brings together evidence from nearly 100 separate studies across the country.

"Australia's total feral cat population fluctuates between 2.1 million when times are lean, up to 6.3 million when widespread rain results in plenty of available prey," said Dr Sarah Legge from The University of Queensland.

The study also looked at what causes variation in cat densities. Cat densities are higher on islands, especially smaller islands.

Inland areas with low rainfall and more open vegetation had higher cat densities than most coastal, wetter areas, but only after extensive rain.

In a worrying finding for conservation managers, cat densities were found to be the same both inside and outside conservation reserves, such as National Parks, showing that declaring protected areas alone is not enough to safeguard our native wildlife.

"Our study highlights the scale and impacts of feral cats and the urgent need to develop effective control methods, and to target our efforts in areas where that control will produce the biggest gains" says Dr Legge.

"At the moment feral cats are undermining the efforts of conservation managers and threatened species recovery teams across Australia.

"It is this difficulty which is pushing conservation managers into expensive, last resort conservation options like creating predator free fenced areas and establishing populations on predator-free islands.

"These projects are essential for preventing extinctions, but they are not enough - they protect only a tiny fraction of Australia's land area, leaving feral cats to wreak havoc over the remaining 99.8% of the country."

The research has been funded by the Australian Government's National Environmental Science Programme and will be important to developing effective strategies for controlling cats and their impacts.

"This new science shows that the density of feral cats in Australia is lower than it is in North America and Europe, and yet feral cats have been devastating for our wildlife," said Mr Gregory Andrews, Australia's Threatened Species Commissioner.

"Australia is the only continent on Earth other than Antarctica where the animals evolved without cats, which is a reason our wildlife is so vulnerable to them. This reinforces the need to cull feral cats humanely and effectively.

"With feral cats having already driven at least 20 Australian mammals to extinction, I'm so glad the Threatened Species Strategy is investing in science like this.

"This science reaffirms the importance of the ambitious targets to cull feral cats that I am implementing with the support of Minister Frydenberg under the Threatened Species Strategy," said Mr Andrews.

According to Dr Legge, "As well as strategically targeting areas for cat control in bushland to maximise the conservation outcomes, we also need to address the issue of feral cats living in heavily urbanised areas, where their densities can be 30 times greater than in natural environments.

"As well as preying on the threatened species that occur in and near urban areas, these urban feral cats may provide a source of feral cats to bushland areas."
-end-
The research was funded by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub of the Australian Government's National Environmental Science Programme.

It has been published in the research journal Biological Conservation.

University of Queensland

Related Threatened Species Articles:

Directed species loss from species-rich forests strongly decreases productivity
At high species richness, directed loss, but not random loss, of tree species strongly decreases forest productivity.
Much of the earth is still wild, but threatened by fragmentation
Half of the Earth's land surface not covered with ice remains relatively wild -- but many of these 'low human-impact' areas are broken into small, isolated pieces, threatening their future.
Threatened species habitat destruction shows federal laws are broken
Human activities have destroyed more than 7.7 million hectares of threatened species habitat, revealing critical failures with Australia's federal environmental protection laws.
Sea otters have low genetic diversity like other threatened species, biologists report
Sea otters have very low genetic diversity, a UCLA-led team of life scientists reports June 18 in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.
Threatened beetles benefit from forest thinning
Wood-living beetles that use oak trees are a species-rich and threatened animal group in modern forestry and agriculture in southern Sweden.
Threatened sturgeon learns for the fitness
An international team led by IGB is providing one of the first proofs of the complex learning behavior of fish in a recent study.
International protection lags scientific assessment in species threatened by trade
Species that are threatened by wildlife trade take nearly 10 years to receive international protection once identified by the scientific community, according to Eyal Frank and David Wilcove in this Policy Forum.
Social marketing campaigns can help threatened wildlife species recover
Encouraging people to change their behavior through social marketing campaigns can help the recovery of threatened wildlife populations.
Human environmental effects favor cosmopolitan species over local iconic species
Human habitat modification is favoring the same species everywhere, while unique species are disappearing, finds a study publishing on Dec.
New machine learning method predicts additions to global list of threatened plant species
A new method uses machine learning and open-access data to predict whether species are eligible for at-risk status on the IUCN Red List.
More Threatened Species News and Threatened Species Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.