BLOG: Alice Springs Cat Symposium

Photo: Gregory Andrews with members of Nyirripi and Kiwirrkurra communities, Rachel Paltridge (Desert Wildlife Services) and Kate Crossing (Central Desert Native Title Services). Nolia Ward of Kiwirrkurra holds aloft a trophy presented by Gregory for champion feral cat hunting in WA. Christine Ellis (left, from Nyirripi) received the NT equivalent.

More than 100 people gathered in Alice Springs recently to hear the latest findings into destructive cat activities in Australia, their impacts on biodiversity and efforts to combat their negative impacts.

The day-long Cat Symposium, held on Thursday September 29, 2016 at the Australian Mammal Society, was a break out event as part of the 62nd Annual Society Conference.

Territory Natural Resource Management supported the inaugural Cat Symposium, with funding through the Australian Government's National Landcare Programme.

A total of 20 speakers presented findings on both feral and domestic cats within Australia.

In addition, delegates heard a plenary talk from Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews titled 'Ramping up Australia’s fight against #extinction by tackling #FeralCats'.

A brief report on who presented, including summaries of what they spoke about, can be accessed here.

Photo: Jon Hodgetts (Territory NRM), Gregory Andrews (Threatened Species Commissioner, DoE) and Chris Pavey (CSIRO)

Over the course of the day, we learned of the national feral cat strategy being implemented by the Department of the Environment through the Threatened Species Commissioner, as well as receiving State and Territory overviews of the issues feral cats are causing.

Brett Murphy opened the sessions with an estimation of how many feral cats there are in Australia (up to 5.8 million), indicating higher densities in populated areas.

The presentation from Kate Crossing and senior members of Kiwirrkurra community about traditional feral cat hunting in their region of central-eastern WA was a real highlight.

As was research being carried out at Arid Recovery by Mike Letnic and colleagues from University of New South Wales to improve the abilities of native mammals to coexist with feral cats.

A range of innovative approaches to dealing with the cat issue in Australia were presented during the day including the development of new technology such as the Eradicat and Curiosity baits and the Felixer (feral cat grooming trap).

Efforts to educate pet cat owners are already quite advanced in certain parts of the country, such as Kangaroo Island as per Pat Hodgens’ talk targeting cat eradication from the island.

There certainly seems to be a great deal of research going on across the country including using traditional hunting techniques in Outback Australia, although there is still plenty of scope for further investigations such as finding conditions under which feral cats thrive or their interaction with fire.

In addition to the 100-strong live audience the event was closely followed through Twitter due largely to the engagement with which Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews uses the medium.

This enabled conversations and stories to be told and discussed far beyond those present.




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