There has been a dramatic decline of native animals across northern Australia over the past few decades, even in conservation reserves such as Kakadu National Park. The main causes of this decline are a mix of feral cats, inappropriate fire practices, and the destruction of habitats by introduced herbivores such as buffalo, cattle, horses, and donkeys.
A Northern Hub project investigating the impacts of feral cats in Kakadu has revealed that cats mostly prey on native mammals.
“Small and medium-sized mammals account for almost 75 per cent of the diet of feral cats in Kakadu, with both cats and dingoes preying on medium-sized mammals such as the Northern Brown Bandicoot”, Project Leader Graeme Gillespie, from the Northern Territory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, explained. “Feral cats are also impacting the populations of small reptiles in savanna woodland habitats in the park.”
“We also calculated the density of feral cats in the Park at about one cat per five square kilometres, which is what’s been found in other areas of northern Australia”.
The project also saw two 64-hectare predator-proof enclosures constructed in the park. Due to low mammal densities at the beginning of the project, it was difficult to draw conclusions about whether excluding cats affects small mammal populations.
This work has informed a second Northern Hub project which is investigating more management options to bolster the recovery of threatened species in Kakadu National Park.
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