Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has unveiled a draft feral cat management plan aimed at reducing the devastating impact of cats on Australian wildlife. The plan focuses on protecting the most at-risk species from extinction. Cats in Australia are responsible for killing over 6 million native animals each day and pose a significant challenge in terms of management.
The plan has a ten-year horizon and is estimated to cost A$60 million in the first five years. It represents a crucial step towards fulfilling Australia’s global commitments to prevent extinctions.
Cats are adaptable and highly efficient predators. A large male cat can kill animals up to 4kg in size, nearly as big as the cat itself. Since their introduction to Australia by Europeans, cats have spread across 99% of the country, with only select islands and fenced conservation areas being cat-free.
Numerous native animal populations struggle to cope with sustained hunting pressure from cats. More than 200 of Australia’s nationally listed threatened species and 37 migratory species have been impacted. Cats have played a significant role in the extinction of one in ten mammal species since their arrival and continue to drive declines and regional extinctions of vulnerable species.
In addition to their predation, cats also carry and transmit diseases, such as toxoplasmosis, which can have detrimental effects on other mammals, birds, livestock, and human health.
The draft plan, called the Threat Abatement Plan, aims to coordinate national efforts in reducing the impacts of feral cats on native wildlife. It was developed in consultation with Indigenous ranger groups, First Nations organizations, the national Feral Cat Taskforce, and experts in threatened species and cat management.
The plan takes a strategic approach by identifying priority areas and species where controlling cats will yield the greatest benefits. It prioritizes eradicating cats from islands and fenced conservation areas, as well as ongoing cat control in areas with significant populations of threatened species vulnerable to cats. Successes achieved in the past decade serve as a foundation for the plan’s implementation.
Ultimately, the aim of the plan is to improve outcomes for threatened and cat-susceptible native species, such as numbats, bettongs, bandicoots, island-nesting seabirds, and rock wallabies. By focusing on eradicating cats from specific areas and keeping cat numbers low in vulnerable regions, the plan aims to protect and preserve Australia’s unique wildlife.