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Monday, April 15 2024

Foxes, feral cats take “shocking” toll on Aussie wildlife

Foxes, Feral Cats
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Sydney: A leading Australian conservation group believes that a new report which charts the immense impact of foxes and feral cats on the nation’s wildlife highlights the need for stronger environmental laws.

The report, published in the Diversity and Distributions journal on Tuesday, estimated that foxes in Australia alone kill about 300 million native mammals, birds and reptiles each year, Xinhua news agency reported.

The carnivores, which were introduced into the ecosystem by European settlers during the colonial era, have subsequently “played a big role” in wiping out 34 unique Australian species including varieties of wallabies, bandicoots, mice and rats.

Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) Nature Campaign Manager Basha Stasak said the “shocking” situation was being “exacerbated by habitat destruction, with huge areas of bushland being cleared for mining, logging, agriculture and new housing estates, meaning native species don’t have as many places to hide from foxes and cats.”

“The problems of feral animals and ongoing habitat destruction would be helped by stronger environment laws, increased funding and specific plans for threatened species recovery,” Stasak told Xinhua on Wednesday.

The report’s authors based their calculations on about 100 field studies undertaken by a team of 23 scientists from 16 universities and conservation agencies throughout the continent.

“Our study estimates there are now 1.7 million foxes in Australia, spreading across 80 per cent of the mainland and on 50 Australian islands,” they wrote on the Conversation website on Wednesday, adding that cats could be found across more than 99.9 percent of the country.

They also reported that the full extent of the wildlife carnage was likely higher because researchers were unable to gather sufficient data on the predators’ consumption of bird and reptile eggs.

The scientists said the “only way to stem these losses, and prevent the extinction of many vulnerable species, is to step up targeted and integrated cat and fox management.”

“Our new research highlights the urgent need to increase investment for cat and fox management across Australia,” they wrote, as “patchy, or small-scale lethal programs can allow their numbers to quickly rebound.”

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