New trap alert system a game changer in protecting Kangaroo Island wildlife
08 April 2022
The Kangaroo Island Landscape Board is launching a high tech, easy-to-use wireless trap monitoring system on Kangaroo Island (KI) to help native species and farmers recover from the devastating impacts of the 2019-20 black summer bushfires. This has been made possible through the funding from the Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants Program (LLBRG), jointly managed by Landcare Australia and the National Landcare Network and delivered by the Landcare Association of South Australia. The Landcare funded project is using Encounter Solutions’ Celium technology on a large-scale for the first time in Australia, as a key part of its feral cat control strategy.
Covering an area of 25,500 hectares of farmland and forestry on the western end of KI, the project is a collaborative on-ground partnership between the KI Landscape Board, KI Council, KILand, AgKI and farmers.
Controlling feral cats on KI is critically important to prevent reinvasion into fire-affected, high value conservation areas on the island’s western end. These areas represent key habitat for threatened species, such as the Endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart.
The series of bushfires that ravaged the island just over two years ago severely burnt much of the KI dunnart’s habitat. This species was left vulnerable to predation from feral cats. Like most islands around Australia, feral cats densities on KI are up to ten times those found on the mainland. This means that species like the KI dunnart are at extreme risk of further population declines as feral cats are more successful hunters in open habitats and rapidly reinvade fire scars in search of easy-to-catch prey.
Large-scale control to reduce the numbers of feral cats is also expected to have benefits for primary producers, as cat-borne diseases impact heavily on the island’s sheep industry. An estimated 57% of sheep carry toxoplasmosis, which causes a high abortion rate in pregnant ewes with Sarcocystosis being responsible for a 30% loss in meat production. By reducing the population size of feral cats, it is hoped abortion rates will decrease and farmers will see increased production created through this Landcare led project.
“To stand a realistic chance of protecting native wildlife, especially on the fire-affected western end, the feral cat problem needs to be tackled at landscape scales and this state of the art technology is a game changer”, said Paul Jennings, the KILB’s KI Dunnart Project Manager, “Checking traps daily is extremely labour intensive and inefficient, and when you consider that on average 80% of traps are open and without a cat present when checked, this technology will support a huge increase in time efficiency.”
According to KILB’s analysis, in most cases, the cost of labour for pest trapping is 40-70% of the total cost of the operation. For the KI dunnart program, wireless technology will reduce this cost by “up to an incredible 80% and will slash pest control costs”, said Paul Jennings.
“Another key benefit of this technology will be the welfare outcomes for captured animals, which is critically important and should underpin ‘best practice’ trapping”.
Tim Buck, Deputy Chair of Agriculture Kangaroo Island, the peak body of agriculture industry of KI, is trialling the technology on his families’ property in a first for the island. In Tim Buck’s opinion, landholder involvement is one of the key factors that will contribute to the project’s success. “There has been a groundswell of support for the technology and I am hoping that landholders will get more involved. At the moment many landholders don’t have a lot of time to continually check and set traps, so using this technology, this will become a much more manageable commitment for landholders who want to have an impact, but don’t have a lot of time to spare”.
This Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants Program project has been supported by the Australian Government’s Bushfire Recovery Program for Wildlife and their Habitat.
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