Feral cats in the spotlight

20 January 2016

A predator exclusion experiment in Kakadu National Park has been extended to allow for more comprehensive results.

Researcher Danielle Stoeckl inspects the cat fence in Kakadu National Park

Researcher Danielle Stokeld inspects the cat fence in Kakadu National Park

The NAER Hub project builds on previous NERP research to establish the role feral animals, specifically feral cats, play in native mammal decline across northern Australia.

In an intensive effort to see whether native mammal numbers improve when predators are removed, two cat-proof exclosures were set up in the park near Kapalga in late 2013. The exclosure fences are made of cyclone mesh and designed with a floppy top to prevent cats from entering.  Each site encloses an area of 64 hectares.

Project Leader Dr Graeme Gillespie from the Northern Territory Government says in the past two years the project team had some success in finding and recording a range of small mammals, however it is still too early to draw any conclusions.

“Controlling cats is not easy. Knowing how important cats are in terms of small mammal decline is vital to making effective decisions about where to best allocate resources for biodiversity conservation,” Dr Gillespie said.

Data collected from the fenced sites will be compared with other unfenced control sites in the area. The densities of cats and dingoes will also be estimated in the surrounding landscape using camera traps, and their prey evaluated through scat analysis.

You can also view presentations about this project to Parks Australia staff and Traditional Owners by researcher Danielle Stokeld, as well as local fence maintenance contractor Peter Christophersen.

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