The federal government will aim to prevent any more species from becoming endangered or extinct due to feral cats, in a new action plan it released on Thursday.
- Feral cats are estimated to kill two billion Australian animals per year
- Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek says the cats are a major driver of extinctions
- The government will also spend millions of dollars to try and eradicate the cats from some islands
The draft plan, now released for public consultation, lists a range of objectives, which include preventing feral cats from spreading further, and reducing their density in areas around people.
While the main effect the cats have on other species is direct predation, they can also compete for food and increase the risk of some diseases.
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said feral cats kill an estimated two billion animals per year, which equates to six million per night.
“They played a role in Australia’s two latest extinctions … they are one of the main reasons Australia is the mammal extinction capital of the world,” Ms Plibersek said.
“We are declaring war on feral cats.”
Separate to the plan, the government will spend millions of dollars to try and eradicate cats from Christmas Island, and French Island near Melbourne.
It will also put $400,000 towards a safer feral cat bait for use in northern Australia.
“If we don’t act now, our native animals don’t stand a chance,” Ms Plibersek said.
A UN report released in recent days identified invasive species as the leading cause of biodiversity loss in Australia.
The exact number of feral cats in Australia fluctuates depending on environmental conditions, but the Environment Department estimated the figure at between 1.4 million and 5.6 million.
The draft plan said Australia “has one of the most robust estimates for the cat population size of any country in the world.”
But it said there is also work to do to make control measures more consistent across jurisdictions, particularly since pet cat management often falls to local government.
“The resulting patchwork of regulations is confusing to the public, and hard to enforce.”
Public consultation on the draft plan will be open until mid-December.