It’s not all about cats

20 10 2014

Snake+OilIf 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.

CJA Bradshaw


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6 responses

21 04 2015
Feral cats… they’re so un-Australian | The London NERC DTP

[…] pledge has been met with a mixed response. Some describe Hunt as a hero, others question the Australian Government’s motivations, the likelihood of achieving the task, and in particular, the current proposals to use a poison […]

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11 12 2014
andy blick

The same is happening here in NZ. Almost overnight, theres huge propaganda around wild cats. Cats are being blamed for among other things the decline in kiwi numbers. Yet in many years of working on kiwi recovery projects, myself and other field ecologists, never saw a dead kiwi that had been killed by a cat. A big part of a wild cats diet is rats, they also have a controlling influence over other predators such as stoats, which do have an impact on kiwi. So I proposed that rather than harming kiwi, cats may actually be of some benefit. Such heresy is unacceptable to the blinkered mainstream believers, to whom anything “non-native” is somehow automatically a “baddie”. So its heartening to see an article such as this.

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24 10 2014
Feral cats – they’re so un-Australian | thomgevans

[…] pledge has been met with a mixed response. Some describe Hunt as a hero, others question the Australian Government’s motivations, the likelihood of achieving the task, and in particular, the current proposals to use a poison bait called Curiosity. Hunt believes […]

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22 10 2014
Feral cats… they’re so un-Australian | Science Blog – London NERC DTP

[…] pledge has been met with a mixed response. Some describe Hunt as a hero, others question the Australian Government’s motivations, the likelihood of achieving the task, and in particular, the current proposals to use a poison bait called Curiosity. Hunt believes this […]

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21 10 2014
DingoSimon

Whilst we still have Govts and Ministers continuing with the insane blatant use of 1080 Baiting being dumped in uncontrolled measures all over the landscape , in some places twice yearly and no one being responsible for collecting the unused baits, matters will continually get worse.
With claims now that there are over 70,000 wild dogs running all over Qld it says to me that without doubt the continual use of 1080 baiting is simply not working.

We know for a fact that dingoes managed the ecosystem for 10,000’s of years quite successfully until the English brought all their animals ( ferals ) here then all hell broke loose.
Scientists have shown that by leaving the dingo to do its job 24/7/365 there has been evidence of feral animal control and protection of native wildlife.
And yet the Govt refuse to acknowledge the Scientists results and continue to dump 1080 in all its forms over the fragile landscape that is assaulted by drought and floods year after year.
Until the Govt stops its head in the sand approach nothing will change.
So we need an informed public outrage and protest , because it will only be the affect of Voters that will force the Govt to change for the better.

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20 10 2014
Euan Ritchie

Some of these points, including the problems with focusing on baits and a need to address underlying causes of the cat problem instead, were covered here http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2014/10/14/4106012.htm

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