An ambitious new national conservation mission to protect Australia’s native wildlife from cats

Saving Australian Wildlife Feral Cats report

An ambitious proposal for a new national conservation mission dubbed ‘Project Noah’ was launched on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast today, aimed at combatting the killing of native wildlife by feral cats.

Chair of the Australian Parliament’s Environment and Energy Committee, Ted O’Brien MP, was joined by Sylvia Whiting of Wildlife Volunteers Association, along with squirrel gliders and ring-tail possums which recently survived cat attacks, to launch a Parliamentary Inquiry Report that recommends Project Noah and other measures to help protect wildlife from cats.

“These little squirrel gliders and ring-tail possums here today have experienced trauma but they’re the lucky ones,” said Mr O’Brien. “They could just have easily been killed.”

“Feral cats kill over three billion native animals across Australia each year, equating to a kill rate of more than 1,100 per cat”, said Mr O’Brien.  

“More wildlife is killed by feral cats on an annual basis than all the wildlife that perished in last year’s Black Summer Bushfires, which really puts this problem in perspective.

“Feral cats need to be culled, but it’s going to take time before we have the technology to rid these lethal carnivores from our natural environment at the scale required, and in an affordable and humane way,” said Mr O’Brien.

“And this is where Project Noah comes in”.  

Project Noah would be a conservation mission aimed at expanding Australia’s network of predator-free fenced areas and islands. It would bring together the expertise and resources of governments, communities, the private sector and philanthropic groups to protect threatened native species from the predation of feral cats and other predators.

Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC), the country’s largest private owner and manager of land for conservation, welcomed the recommendation.

 “Feral cat eradication is complicated and we welcome the Government’s support to help solving this critical issue,” said AWC Chief Science Officer John Kanowski.

“AWC has demonstrated the outstanding success in ongoing exclusion of feral cats (and other pests) from our sanctuaries and this has led to the consequent recovery of many threatened species,” said Dr Kanowski

“Project Noah sounds like an excellent step forward and the more the Government can do to support the eradication of feral cats the greater hope for Australia’s wildlife.”

AWC has a total of eight fenced areas and one island supporting populations of a total of 15 threatened mammal species and it undertakes extensive research on the ecology of feral cats, and it is a leading advocate for the establishment of feral cat-free areas in Australia.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Sylvia Whiting, Chair of Wildlife Volunteers Association, Queensland’s longest running wildlife rescue organisations, said “Many of our wonderful wildlife volunteers care for injured, sick and orphaned animals who have fallen victim to cats,” said Ms Whiting. “The more we can do to protect native species, the better.”

Other recommendations in the Committee’s report included:

  • That a body of work be conducted to: understand cat impacts; develop nationally consistent definitions for feral, stray and domestic cats; and further research matters such as the prevalence, impact and control of cats, emerging methodologies including gene drive technology; management of cat-borne diseases, and the relationship between cat predation and habitat degradation;
  • A ‘reset’ of the Australian Government’s policy, planning and resourcing in relation to Australia’s feral cat problem to include a new iteration of the Threat Abatement Plan for feral cats; a revised Threatened Species Strategy including new targets for culling feral cats; and consideration of reform opportunities identified through the review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and;
  • New strategies for the management and control of domestic cats, including such measures as increased support for de-sexing, registration and microchipping, a consideration of night curfews, and a national cat ownership education campaign.  

A copy of the Committee’s full report can be found on the inquiry website here.

Listen to Mr O'Brien's tabling speech in Parliament HERE and below.