If you follow any of the environment news in Australia, you will most certainly have seen a lot about feral cats in the last few weeks. I’ve come across dozens of articles in the last week alone talking about the horrendous toll feral cats have had on Australian wildlife since European arrival. In principle, this is a good thing because finally Australians are groggily waking to the fact that our house moggies and their descendants have royally buggered our biodiversity. As a result, we have the highest mammal extinction rate of any country.
But I argue that the newfound enthusiasm for killing anything feline is being peddled mainly as a distraction from bigger environmental issues and to camouflage the complete incompetence of the current government and their all-out war on the environment.
Call me cynical, but when I read headlines like “Australia aims to end extinction of native wildlife by 2020” and Environment Minister Hunt’s recent speech that he has “… set a goal of ending the loss of mammal species by 2020“, I get more than just a little sick to the stomach.
What a preposterous load of shite. Moreover, what a blatant wool-pulling-over-the-eyes public stunt.
Yes. Cats are bad for Australia, but as others have already eruditely stated, we will never, ever eradicate them. Moreover, we will not ever stop extinctions – the best we can do is slow them down. I also take particular issue with highly subsidised, industry-led push to cover the land in a new ‘miracle’ cat poison called ‘Curiosity‘. If ever there was a snake-oil salesman on display, it would have to be the hype over this aspect of the strategy. Really? After years of building fences and poisoning everything we can, do people honestly believe that we’re suddenly going to end the problem of cat predation? What archaic, unscientific and troglodytic approaches to wildlife management!
If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that by far and away our best chances for reducing the cat population is to use our natural systems to their advantage – let dingos do the work. I’m all in favour of targeting certain populations of cats with a dedicated culling/poisoning programme, but it will never, ever result in long-term density suppression unless we couple such approaches with full-scale ecosystem management. We already have the knowledge and technology, so for biodiversity’s sake, let’s bloody well use them.
Neither Mr Hunt’s nor Mr Andrews‘ approaches mention anything about dingoes, nor do they challenge their government’s renewed love for habitat destruction and deforestation. Cats kill, but habitat destruction and continued bush clearing will have far more lasting and substantive effects on biodiversity than cats ever will. Addressing all causes of biodiversity loss simultaneously is an absolute necessity, and buying into the snake-oil hype will only perpetuate our horrible legacy of biodiversity loss.
Please, Messieurs Hunt and Andrews, get your heads out of the 1960s and join forces with our own, globally top-ranked ecologists to design a system that actually addresses the extinction crisis. Your approach will not work.