Reported in the Conversation this week, Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced a 10-year action plan to eradicate ‘all significant populations of feral cats around Australia’. Not a new proposal, as eradicating cats was first suggested back in 1996, but the thinking behind the Action Plan for Australian Mammals, released in June by the CSIRO, is a definite improvement.
In Victoria, for example, the government is considering fencing an area within Wilsons Promontory National Park, and releasing Tasmanian devils. The intention is to fence in foxes and cats as well “in an attempt to re-establish an ecological balance between feral cats, foxes and native wildlife.”
This experimental approach comes largely from the issues around random 1080 baiting, because it kills off the major predators -dingoes, enabling foxes and cats to proliferate.
In spite of this knowledge, the latest report on the ‘Corridors and Core Habitat for Koalas on the NSW Far South Coast’ project indicates the proponents are happy with business as usual, and are continuing the ‘integrated approach to wild dog and fox control within and adjacent to the project area.’ At this point it’s worth noting that the original project area was 76,000 ha, but somehow this area has since swelled out to 716,000 ha.
Along with the broad acre burning, a previous example in Biamanga NP below, that also benefits cats, the Federal government’s ongoing support for this non-adaptive management, that is clearly outside of the funding guidelines, and cannot demonstrate any positive environmental outcomes, is questionable.
Early next month, within the old koala project area around Tanja, the Atlas of Wildlife people are planning another ‘Bioblitz‘. Included in the ‘blitz’ are OE&H koala surveys and the detail indicates ” . . . There have been several sightings of koalas in Mimosa Rocks National Park recently and these surveys will try to find evidence of any remnant populations.”
I suppose, if one includes those present when the koala was released in Mimosa Rocks NP, there have been several recent sightings, although the suggestion could be misleading. Similarly terms like ‘remnant populations’, may also be a little misleading.
It goes on to say ” . . . You will be trained in our survey methods and we will be looking for scats and faecal pellets. Data gathered will help understand distribution, abundance, food tree species and genetics of our local koalas.”
Regrettably, the changes made to ‘our survey methods’ have reduced data quality, koala distribution is constrained to, and limited by forests on a soil landscape, and food tree species are well known. The time frames involved with the surveys, years, cannot accurately determine abundance and the genetics of ‘our local koalas’ are known to be very similar to the koalas the government is translocating from Victoria.
While trusting that volunteers involved in the surveys are informed of these details, the chances seem low.