Bold new feral cat management initiative
15 July 2015
Kangaroo Island has been a leader in feral cat management in South Australia through its early adoption of domestic cat management policies, research into feral cat behaviour and trialling of different cat trapping attractants and devices. The KI community has demonstrated its support for cat management with surveys in 1993 and 2005 showing more than 90% of respondents support both domestic and feral cat management and control measures. The community recognises the harmful economic and environmental impacts caused by feral cats through spreading diseases, preying on native wildlife and social nuisance issues (defecation, fighting and noise).
Cat management efforts have been limited by restricted resources but the KI NRM Board and the KI Council are united in their goal to eradicate feral cats on KI and have developed a process by which it can be achieved. The KI community and landholders have played a valuable role in managing feral cats to the extent that they are able, and it is hoped that this will continue.
An important new development was the launch of the Feral cat eradication on Kangaroo Island 2015‒2030 prospectus by KI NRM Board Presiding Member, Richard Trethewey, at the Threatened Species Summit held in Melbourne on 16 July 2015. The prospectus outlines a phased programme with the long-term goal of eradicating feral cats on Kangaroo Island by 2030. The first stage is seeking funding to trial effective cat control techniques on Kangaroo Island, with the second and third stages looking to eradicate feral cats from the Dudley Peninsula and then the rest of the island.
The Australian Government has indicated its interest in feral cat eradication and this opportunity needs to be seized to gain funding, which would also be sought from other agencies. In order to secure the funding and eliminate the risk of domestic cats re-establishing a feral cat population on the island, there would need to be a gradual phasing out of domestic cats, though they would possibly be allowed under strict permit conditions.
Another community survey will be conducted in August to establish the level of support for the programme’s proposed actions. The programme will only be successful with the full support of the KI community and 100% cooperation on an ongoing basis. The survey will be available online and distributed by mail.
Kangaroo Island has the opportunity to be a ‘centre of excellence’ in cat management; a place where new technologies and innovations are trialed. The proposed management programme will involve the trialling of new methods and tools for feral cat eradication that if successful might then be rolled out in other areas.
Feral cat eradication is needed if we are to maintain a clean, green image, protect our native wildlife and provide sheep farmers with a more certain future. However, while the aim of the programme is to eradicate feral cats, cruelty to animals is not acceptable.
To solve the feral cat challenge good coordination and collaboration between key agencies and stakeholders is required. To this end the KI NRM Board, KI Council, DEWNR, PIRSA, and Ag KI are working together, supported by the Invasive Animals CRC and other national research agencies.