We need balanced headlines on the story about feral cats preying on the rare and endangered Leadbeater’s possum, a tiny creature living in ‘tall wet forests of Victoria’s Central Highlands’.
Phys.org leads with a disturbing headline ‘Evidence that feral cats are preying on the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum‘ which is bound to get the feral cat cull advocates all fired up again.
Yet when you read on there is an admission that:
- There is no clear evidence that feral cats are routinely feeding on this endangered possum. The stomach contents and scats of two cats contained the remains of the possum but these might be isolated incidents. Or perhaps the possums were dead already and the cats fed on carcasses.
- Habitat loss for the possum is the main reason for its population decline
- Degradation of its habitat due to bushfires is another reason for the endangerment of this species of possum and;
- Degradation of its habitat due to timber harvesting is another reason for the decline in its population size.
The conclusion is that (1) feral cats might be taking some Leadbeater’s possums while (2) human activity is a certain reason for making the survival of this species uncertain.
The headline is misleading. A lot of internet users just read headlines and the first paragraph. And if you read those two elements of the Phys.org article you come away with the ‘fact’ (no) that feral cats are doing more damage to Aussie native species.
Until now feral cats have not been considered a threat to this species of possum. The camera trap image is of a feral cats on top of a man made box for Leadbeater’s possums. Might it have been a good idea to have ensured that feral cats were did not inhabit this particular area of the forest? Or to build boxes which prevent access by cats?
Perhaps the nesting boxes put the possums at risk? If that were the case it means yet more human activity is endangering this possum.
Leadbeater’s possum feeds off the ground while cats normally feed on the ground. This protects them. The state of Victoria, Australia is about to declare the feral cat a pest under the Victorian Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994. This will no doubt mean mass culls anyway possible; humane or not, it makes to difference.
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