Winter blitz to help eradicate feral cats on Dudley Peninsula

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Winter blitz to help eradicate feral cats on Dudley Peninsula
The event in Penneshaw attracted local interest and built momentum for KILB’s feral cat winter trapping blitz.

The Kangaroo Island Landscape Board’s (KILB) Cat Eradication Program team held its Dudley Peninsula Community Event at Lloyd Collins Reserve, Penneshaw, on Saturday 26th February. With more than 80 local residents showing up to support the event, the KILB announced its winter blitz project and called for Dudley Peninsula landholders to participate.

At the event, James Smith, Feral Cat Eradication Project Leader and the team explained to the community the importance of the program, methods being used, achievements to date, new developments and future directions of the program.

In a joint effort, the KI Council and KI Veterinary Clinic also had stalls and handouts at the event to discuss the by-laws and options for registering and desexing domestic cats.

Sixty-five percent of the Dudley Peninsula is now under active feral cat eradication activities. The eradication team are often asked ‘how many cats are left’? According to James Smith it’s not how many cats that are left that’s important but the area of land free from cats. ‘Based off this rationale, we are now well over halfway to complete with 65% of the Dudley’.

Winter blitz to help eradicate feral cats on Dudley Peninsula
Project team field officer Ashleigh Wycherley explained how 4G cameras work to help protect KI biodiversity.

Remote cameras connected to the mobile phone network send images directly to an artificial intelligence based computer system which can, in real time, sort through the images and alert the team when a feral cat is detected. This process is proving highly efficient for the team, who can then focus on eradication efforts instead of spending hours looking through photographs. The latest instalment of this technology, showcased during the Penneshaw event, was a brand new system, the first of its kind, which will be deployed on the feral cat fence and used to detect feral cats across the Dudley. The new system can scan vast areas, detect a feral cat up to 500m away in complete darkness, track its movements and alert the team. Eventually this system will be coupled with deterrent and capture devices at gaps in the fence to provide an automated solution for feral cats trying to reinvade.

Winter blitz to help eradicate feral cats on Dudley Peninsula
KILB Board Member Peggy Rismiller and Project Leader James Smith discussing new AI technology.

‘The diseases that feral cats harbour on Kangaroo Island significantly impact the sheep industry and biodiversity, with flow-on effects for the ecotourism industry’, said KILB chairman Andrew ‘Aphid’ Heinrich. ‘The eradication of feral cats from the Dudley Peninsula, once achieved, will be a model which provides evidence that a whole of island feral cat eradication is technically possible.

According to James Smith, the best time to trap feral cats is in winter. This winter the eradication team ‘hope to enlist as many Dudley landholders as possible to conduct simultaneous feral cat trapping across the whole peninsula. If landholders can even help trapping for one night, it will make a difference’.

To this end, the KILB has produced a video as a step-by-step guide for cat trapping. During the winter blitz the KILB will provide traps for interested participants and will be on hand to provide advice and help euthanase feral cats where necessary. Please see Feral cat trapping on Kangaroo Island - YouTube for more.

KILB’s Feral Cat Eradication team also had an introductory video of the project playing in the adjacent Penguin Centre. Please find out more on: Feral Free Kangaroo Island 2021 - YouTube.

The KILB urges residents and land owners of Dudley Peninsula to come forward and join in the winter trapping blitz this June 24th to July 4th. To get in contact, please call 08 8553 2476 or email ki.landscapeboard@sa.gov.au.

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