Today a bold plan has been unveiled to completely eradicate feral cats from Christmas Island.
The ambitious plan will be underpinned by an enduring cat-control partnership between the Australian and Western Australian governments, the local community, biodiversity experts and major organisations including the Shire of Christmas Island and Christmas Island Phosphates.
“Feral cats are devastating Christmas Island’s wildlife and it has to stop. The island can’t afford to lose any more of its native species to this merciless threat,” said Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment.
“Already this year, feral cats have been implicated in another likely extinction on Christmas Island, with the death of the last forest skink in captivity.”
The Threatened Species Commissioner is on Christmas Island this week with the Director of National Parks, who manages Christmas Island National Park. They will meet some of the rangers who are about to ramp up cat eradication on the island, together with partners.
“The commitment to eradicate feral cats is built on a collaborative approach between governments, business, biodiversity experts and the Christmas Island community,” said Senator Birmingham.
“The Shire of Christmas Island already requires pet owners to register and desex all domestic cats on the island, and no new cats may be brought in – a great launching pad for feral cat eradication.
“Eradicating feral cats will take a number of years and funding will come from a range of partners. The island’s phosphate mine has earmarked $1.35 million for cat eradication through an environmental offset, to be matched by the Director of National Parks. The Director and Threatened Species Commissioner will work with other partners to leverage additional funding.”
Over recent years, Christmas Island National Park, the Shire, Christmas Island Phosphates, Department of Infrastructure and WA Government have pooled resources to keep feral cat numbers down. Through baiting in settled areas, more than 600 feral cats have already been removed.
The next step is to trial a new baiting technique that will work in Christmas Island’s rainforest areas. Bait stations will be suspended from tree branches, just low enough for feral cats to reach.
“Taking the fight all the way to the forests will have huge benefits,” said Senator Birmingham.
“When we started baiting around settled areas several years ago populations of red tailed tropic birds bounced back, with a ninety per cent jump in breeding success.
“By eliminating feral cats from the entire island we know we are giving our native species a much greater chance of survival and establishing a model for others to consider following.”