Tags: australia | extinction | mammals | feral cats | foxes

Australia's 'Extinction Calamity' the Result of Feral Cats, Foxes

By    |   Tuesday, 10 Feb 2015 11:31 AM

Australia has been experiencing an "extinction calamity" among its native mammals for the past 200 years, according to conservationists, mainly because of feral cats and red foxes imported by European settlers.

The new research, published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, stated that the problem is more severe than previously thought. Many always assumed that the continent's low population as compared to land size meant that wildlife was "relatively secure," BBC News reported.

Since 1788, 11 percent of the 273 native mammals living on Australian land have died out, 21 percent are threatened, and 15 percent are near threatened, the research says. The study mostly blames predatory wild cats and foxes brought over from Europe, but also included large-scale fires as a reason behind the loss of some habitats.

John Woinarski, of Charles Darwin University, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the greatest mammal losses are happening in remote areas of the country.

"In most places in the world, the real conservation losses are occurring in areas with high human population density and big development," Woinarski said. "That's not really the case in Australia. Instead, it seems most of the losses in Australia have occurred in really remote areas far away from human settlement."

Woinarski told ABC News that those losses are the strongest evidence of non-native predatory animals creating the extinction as opposed to habitat loss or overhunting.

"(Fire) is not as serious a factor as predation by feral cats, which we think is the number one factor. But the two factors aren't independent," he said. "It seems the impact of feral cats is far worse in extensively burnt areas, simply because many of those native land mammal species don't have enough refuge left."

Aggressive measures would likely have to be taken to save the remaining species, such as moving some of the them to islands where the predators are not so dominate or shrinking the number of feral cats and red foxes in the Australia outback.

"Make sure biosecurity and quarantine procedures are on those islands are well kept," Woinarski told ABC News. "We need to increase the amount of baiting for feral cats and foxes."

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Australia has been experiencing an "extinction calamity" among its native mammals for the past 200 years, according to conservationists, mainly because of feral cats and red foxes imported by European settlers.
australia, extinction, mammals, feral cats, foxes
364
2015-31-10
Tuesday, 10 Feb 2015 11:31 AM
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