Categories: Australia

An alternative way of dealing with the Australian feral cat problem

There must be an alternative way to deal with the feral cat problem other than simply slaughtering them by their millions in an attempt to eradicate them. The Australian government thinks they can eradicate them or reduce their numbers to a level where they are no longer a threat to native species. As you know they are going to poison them and poisoning is a very painful death but that does not concern the government.

Australian Premier wants to kill feral cats en masse

A lot of senior, established Australian scientists disagree with the government. For example, Dave Algar the senior research scientist developing control strategies for the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife says that eradication is an impossible task. He also says that when large-scale fox control was implemented it allowed native species to build up in numbers which then allowed the feral cats to survive more easily whereupon they became a threat. You can see that unforeseen consequences can arise out of human intervention and eradication programs. Human intervention upsets the balance of the ecosystem.

Therefore alternative strategies need to be figured out and they need to be sensible, practical and humane. Algar said:

“I don’t believe you’ve got the opportunity to eradicate on the mainland, there’s several problems there. Australia is so vast the cost would be astronomic to bait the entire continent and you’ve still got the ongoing problem of domestic pets getting into the stray population and then into the feral cat population.”

Prof Johnson at the University of Tasmania, a senior conservation biologist, says that Australia may be on the wrong path in trying to eradicate the feral cat. Both he and scientist/filmmaker Daniel Hunter suggest an alternative and more natural remedy. Hunter recommends something called “trophic cascade”. He is referring to a balanced ecosystem in which there are a small number of apex predators such as dingoes (Australia’s wild dog) which help to regulate the impact of feral cats either by killing them all by creating an environment that the cat steers clear of.

Tasmanian devil

Also, Hunter and Johnson suggest that the introduction of the Tasmanian devil may be a solution. It is controversial and there are bound to be complications but they can be surmounted. The Tasmanian devil was, at one time, found on the mainland.

There are indications that Tasmanian devils could be effective in controlling the activities and numbers of feral cats. Apparently, until recently, feral cats had not caused significant damage to wildlife in Tasmania. The reason was the presence of the Tasmanian devil, it is believed. The recent change is probably due to the fact that the Tasmanian devil is suffering an epidemic of facial cancer and is therefore less effective as a predator.

Johnson said:

“We could create a better functioning ecosystem in places like Wilson’s Promontory by putting a large predator like the devil back into that system.”

What is being suggested is re-wilding of certain parts of Australia by top predators to rebalance the ecosystem and reduce the impact of the feral cat because it would then become a prey item rather than an apex predator.

Re-wilding has been tried out before to good effect in other parts of the world such as Yellowstone National Park in America where wolves were introduced to control the park’s large numbers of deer.

Hunter believes that the research and suggestions by people like Prof Johnson and himself must eventually hold sway with the authorities. What they suggest makes far more sense than a foolhardy and cruel attempt to do the impossible in eradicating the feral cat. At least nature can take its course under these new recommendations.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • I don't know of any poison that would be cat specific.

    Therefore, the Aussie government would, also, be destroying the very wildlife that they claim to love and are endangered by ferals. Not very bright at all.

    I have witnessed some poisoning with the intention of targeting cats and have seen the horrific effects of dead raccoons, opposums, and birds just dropping from the sky because they partook of the tainted food.
    It broke my heart just to hold that convulsing and dying red bird.

    And, guess what? Within 3 months, the feral population was thriving again. Such is the vacuum effect.

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