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Feral animals are running amok on Australia's islands – here's how to stop them

Chris Wilcox, CSIRO and Erin McCreless, University of California, Santa Cruz

Australia has some 8,300 islands, many of them home to threatened species. But humans have introduced rodents and predators such as feral cats and foxes to many of these islands, devastating native wildlife and changing entire island ecosystems. Removing invasive mammals has proven to be a very effective tool for protecting island species.

As a result, the federal government has made it a priority to remove invasive vertebrates from islands where they pose the most severe threats to native plants and animals.

But choosing where to remove those invasives is difficult. We don’t have complete information about the distribution of native species and threats across the nation’s 8,300 islands, and we haven’t been able to predict where eradication will have the most benefit.

However, in a recent study published in Nature Communications, our global team of scientists looked at islands around the world to consider where we can get the biggest bang for our buck.

Eradicating cats, rats and pigs from Flinders Island in Tasmania would help save forty-spotted pardalotes. Francesco Veronesi, CC BY-SA
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In the heart of Australia, part of what makes this continent unique is fading away.The nation is in the grip of an extinction crisis in areas where life’s hold is most tenuous.

Since settlement, at least 29 ­native mammal species have ­disappeared.

Feral cats are implicated in all but one of those extinctions. One in five native mammal species is threatened by cats and 124 are in danger of extinction.

There could be as many as 20 million feral cats in Australia — six times the number kept as pets — killing tens of millions of native creatures every night.

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French Island is planning liberation. The indigenous wildlife are to be freed of the tyranny of feral cats. That is great news for the wildlife community of French Island.

With human community agreement and support 96% of the Island's residents embrace a feral cat eradication program.

Threatened Species commissioner Gregory Andrews is delighted.

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Ferals, strays, pets: how to control the cats that are eating our wildlife

Tim Doherty, Edith Cowan University and Mike Calver, Murdoch University

Feral domestic cats are a global threat to biodiversity and were recently named as the biggest threat to endangered Australian mammals.

But what about your pet cat, or the local stray? While any kind of domestic cat can kill wildlife, there’s no “one size fits all” way to manage their impact.

Before we figure out how best to manage cats, we first need to distinguish between the different categories.

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 republished by permission

Australia’s war on feral cats: shaky science, missing ethics

William Lynn, Clark University

In July 2015, the Australian government announced a “war on feral cats,“ with the intention of killing over two million felines by 2020. The threat abatement plan to enforce this policy includes a mix of shooting, trapping and a reputedly “humane” poison.

Some conservationists in Australia are hailing this as an important step toward the rewilding of Australia’s outback, or the idea of restoring the continent’s biodiversity to its state prior to European contact. Momentum has also been building in the United States for similar action to protect the many animals outdoor cats kill every year.

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