Feral predators – ‘super’ cats, foxes and dingoes

3 07 2008

cat and bilbyHere’s one to get us going. A recent news item on ABC News discusses the prospect of importing so-called ‘super cats’ (‘savannah cats’ = domestic cat x African serval) into Australia. Although most of the items and people commenting on the subject deplore the very notion, I cannot believe that there was the legal capacity to import these things in the first place! Or indeed, that the company attempting to commit the heinous conservation crime has the right even to exist in this country. You’d think we’d learn after swamp buffalo, cane toads, foxes and a host of other alien nasties have caused Australian fauna to experience some of the higher rates of extinction known in the modern context. Indeed, it is my opinion that all cats (domestic and otherwise) should be declared illegal in Australia and destroyed. This is where it gets interesting though. One for the ‘papers to watch’ categories is by a mate and colleague of mine, Professor Chris Johnson of James Cook University in Townsville. He and his colleagues last year published a paper in Proc. R. Soc. B. called ‘Rarity of a top predator triggers continent-wide collapse of mammal prey: dingoes and marsupials in Australia‘.

dingo-21Here, they showed how dingoes (themselves ‘alien species’, but from some time ago) actually appear to suppress the populations of more recent alien predator arrivals (e.g., cats and foxes). The upshot is that more dingoes = fewer cats/foxes = more native fauna. Brilliant! I hope we can say in a few years how the careful management of dingoes and promotion of their conservation has benefitted an array of threatened marsupials in Australia. Well done Chris and colleagues.

CJA Bradshaw



11 responses

14 07 2012
Supercats savannah | Sejuiced

[…] Feral predators – ‘super’ cats, foxes and dingoes …Jul 3, 2008 … A recent news item on ABC News discusses the prospect of importing so-called ‘ super cats’ (’savannah cats’ = domestic cat x African serval) … […]

28 10 2008
Corey Bradshaw

See also post from 26 Oct 2008 on ‘invasion meltdown’


CJA Bradshaw

21 08 2008
Corey Bradshaw

See related discussion here.

20 08 2008
Corey Bradshaw

Post from Feral ThoughtsSavannah Cats banned from Australia

Brilliant news today with the announcement by Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, that Savannah Cats will not be allowed into Australia.

The Minister has used his powers under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to amend the definition of domestic cat to rule out cats with genes from the Serval. Good on him. I’m not sure of the details yet, but that should be enough to discourage others contemplating bringing exotic “pets” with wild genes into the country to think again. The potential cost to Australia’s environment is simply too high.

Apparently, the Department considered 549 submissions, and 526 of these supported a ban – that’s an extraordinary response to a wildlife issue. It shows people value our unique environment and don’t want it put at further risk.

20 08 2008
Corey Bradshaw

Hi Tony,

Let’s hope if similar (analogous) proposals arise, we can also kill them before they take any shape. Sue? Bloody hell – we should evaluate the economic implications of cats already and sue the importers!

As for Irwin, yes, I’m afraid that’s the evil of it. Did he simply appeal to the 10-year-old psyche (no offence intended), or did he change behaviours for the better? My argument is in support of the former (as is Brockington’s).

CJA Bradshaw

20 08 2008
Tony Peacock

Hi Paula and Corey,

The Minister did act quickly and banned them. The importers are saying they’ll sue, but who knows?

He only banned Savannah cats – it is a very specific regulation, so in theory other hybrid cat breeds and hybrid dog breeds are technically legal. One assumes no one would be silly enough to pursue import of wolf-dogs or similar, but we do have to keep and eye out.

I think your Irwin discussion is fascinating. Our CRC is paying for research on sustainable harvest of roos, but my 10 year old Sam is absolutely passionate about Steve Irwin (his birthday present is a trip to Australia Zoo next week). I think I come out on the side that the inspiration outweighs any difference of opinion.


20 08 2008
Paula Kahumbu

Oh, just seen on Feral thoughts that the importation was banned on Aug 3rd. Three cheers for Australia.

20 08 2008
Corey Bradshaw

Hi Paula,

My understanding is that the proposal was nipped in the bud – too many people complained of the dangers. I believe our ex-Midnight Oil front man, Peter Garrett (current Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage & the Arts) listened to good sense and banned the proposal. Australian marsupials from Cape York to Cape Leeuwin made a collective sigh of relief.

20 08 2008
Paula Kahumbu

Hi Corey, I wrote about this madness on my blog a while ago – as an Aussie can’t you do something a bit more dramatic to stop them? I find myself musing about the possibilities- the reason people are going for these exotic crosses is probably because they can’t get the real thing right? A real wild cat? They say that the trade in exotic pets is second only in value to the arms trade (worth more than drugs man!). If the cost of a domestic serval or other wild cat could contribute to conservation would we be all for it? We are such beggars – I bet we would :(

5 07 2008

Thank you, Tony. Nice site yourself. I’ve signed the petition (against, of course) and shake my head at the stupidity of our compatriots who have signed the ‘for’ petition. I’ll comment on the DRA too.

CJA Bradshaw

4 07 2008
Tony Peacock

Hi Corey -thanks for pointing this out. There is the opportunity to comment on a Draft Risk Assessment from DEWHA before 17 July. You can follow the links from my blog at http://www.feral.typepad.com

The same loophole leaves it open for wolf-dog and coyote-dog hybrids to enter – being classified “domestic” after only five generations. We want to have the whole system revised. I think it will be hard for the Savannah Cats to enter now that the Risk Assessment has been issued – it is very damning.

Nice site.

Tony Peacock

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