One of the biggest extinction crises on the planet is occurring in Australia, and the culprit is feral cats.
The Australian government says there are approximately 20 million feral cats in the country, and that they threaten to push over 100 species over the edge, as each cat eats between three and 20 native animals a day.
The solution is clear and Australia is gearing up for it: a massive continent-wide poisoning of feral cats using aircraft to scatter "Eradicat" bait -- a combination of kangaroo mince, chicken fat, and a deadly poison called 1080 -- across Australia's vast outback.
The goal is not to eliminate feral cats entirely, which is probably impossible, but to knock down their numbers substantially across broad regions order to give native wildlife breathing room.
The 1080 poison, also known as sodium fluoroacetate, is supposedly a particularly good solution for the state of Western Australia because it is made from plants that grow in the region and native animals have (supposedly) evolved a resistance which non-natives have not.
One problem, of course, is hunting and stock-working dogs which may come across bait and ingest it. If a dog eats 1080 poison, it's pretty well done for.
What's really needed to solve the feral cat problem in Australia, and around the world, is some sort of viral immuno contraceptive. The basic biology is understood, but getting the pathogen to work on rabbits, deer, fox, and cats, has proven harder to operationalize than first thought. In addition, there clear, serious, and reasonable concerns about releasing such a virus in the wild. In the meantime, mass killing seems the only way forward.
|Dead feral cats in a tree by the road, Southern Australia|