Feral cats a risk to endangered SA dunnart

·1-min read

Feral cats are pushing the critically endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart, a small, mouse-sized marsupial, to the brink of extinction, a new study has found.

The island's dunnart population was estimated at less than 500 before the major bushfires in early 2020, which wiped out 98 per cent of its habitat.

After the fires, checks on feral cats over several months found the remains of eight dunnarts in the digestive systems of seven felines.

"These findings represent the first confirmation that feral cats do prey on Kangaroo Island dunnarts and suggest they are efficient hunters of this species given the small numbers of dunnarts that remain following the bushfires," said Louis Lignereux, from the University of Adelaide's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences.

"Bushfires concentrate predators and their prey in areas that are spared from the flames, so controlling the stray cat population in areas potentially inhabited by dunnarts is important.

"The combined pressures of a small, isolated population, natural disasters like bushfires, and introduced predators such as feral cats could lead to the extinction of this vulnerable species."

Dr Lignereux said a 2020 study estimated feral cat numbers on Kangaroo Island at between 1000 and 2300.

A federal government-funded eradication program has been under way since 2015, with the aim to have the island free of feral cats by 2030.

A predator-free safe haven for dunnarts has also been constructed within the island's Western River Refuge.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting