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Publications archive - Biodiversity

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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by Feral Cats

Biodiversity Group Environment Australia, 1999
0 642 2546339

Exective Summary

The feral cat is common throughout most environments in Australia, including offshore islands. The first recorded instance of cats being brought to Australia is by English settlers in the 18th century, though they may have arrived much earlier via trading routes from South-East Asia, shipwrecks or visits by European ships to the west coast. Cats were also deliberately released into the wild during the 19th century to control rabbits and mice. Their populations are now self-sustaining, but may be augmented by immigration from stray and domestic cat populations.

There is strong evidence that feral cats have caused the decline and extinction of native animals on islands (Dickman, 1996). Feral cats have also been shown to thwart re-introduction programs for native species. Predation by feral cats is thought to have contributed to the extinction of small to medium-sized ground-dwelling mammals and ground-nesting birds in Australia’s arid zone, and to threaten the continued survival of native species that currently persist in low numbers. However, convincing evidence that feral cats exert a significant effect on native wildlife on the mainland or Tasmania is scarce (Dickman, 1996).

Eradication of feral cats on the mainland is not possible but there are techniques available to reduce cat numbers and predation on wildlife in limited areas. This plan aims to reduce the impact of feral cat predation on native wildlife over a five-year period by:

The strategy advocated in the implementation and further development of the threat abatement plan involves the use of currently available techniques to control feral cat predation in manageable areas critical to threatened species conservation. Measures will also be taken to prevent cats becoming established on important islands which are currently cat-free. In implementing these aspects close links with species recovery plans and other threat abatement plans will be established. Development of improved control methods, particularly toxic baits, will be supported and strongly encouraged, with animal welfare issues being specifically addressed. There will also be a focus on collecting and assessing information to improve our understanding of feral cat impacts and methods to reduce them.

The five-year life of this plan will provide for consolidation and coordination of the continuing process of managing feral cat impacts on native wildlife. The main priority during this period will be to provide support for on-ground control programs, and the development of new cat-control techniques, to enhance the recovery prospects of threatened species. The success of this plan will be judged in terms of the benefits to nature conservation from the controls applied, and from the application of improved control methods developed through research. Success may also be measured by the effectiveness with which attitudes are changed through adequate provision of information.

The plan will evolve as new information and experience from these activities becomes available. Control of feral cats is expected to be a continuing requirement for the foreseeable future and the costs of control will be significant. This plan therefore establishes a framework which will enable the best use to be made of any resources which may be made available. The Commonwealth contribution to implementation of the plan will be delivered primarily through the programs of the Natural Heritage Trust.

Published June 1999 by Environment Australia under the Natural Heritage Trust.

Commonwealth of Australia