Research in Brief
This research project will build on an existing large-scale feral cat baiting program in the Pilbara being undertaken by the WA Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) in partnership with Rio Tinto in order to:
Across northern Australia quolls have been severely impacted by cane toads and feral cats. Due to the absence of cane toads, the Pilbara is a region of vital importance to Northern Quolls. This project will focus on the response of Northern Quolls in particular, to the cat-baiting program.
One of the Pilbara field work sites. Photo: Nicolas Rakotopare
Why is the research needed?
This project addresses priorities in the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Strategy, related to targets for the effective control of feral cats, and to the management of cats to allow for the recovery of priority threatened species. Feral cats have contributed to the extinction of many species and remain a serious threat to Australia’s vertebrate fauna, especially its small–to medium–sized mammals.
Feral cat baiting programs represent major resource investments. Given the significant costs, research that can 1) assess the cost benefit of such investments; and 2) provide evidence to optimise future programs, is essential to effective policy and programs in this area.
Limited knowledge about how cats behave in response to baiting programs also limits opportunities to optimise such programs. Eradicat baits contain 1080, to which Northern Quolls in WA have some natural tolerance, however questions remain over the potential for an Eradicat baiting program to have both lethal and sub-lethal (such as reduced reproductive success) impacts on Quolls.
The 4 year cat-baiting program in the Pilbara is being undertaken for Rio Tinto, by WA DBCA. It is a biodiversity offset intended to benefit the threatened northern quoll and Pilbara olive python.
How will the research help?
The operation of this offset by Rio Tinto and DPaW in the Pilbara presents a valuable opportunity to gather evidence on the response of cats and native species to a major cat control program.
In particular the research will provide:
The health and movement of Northern Quolls within the cat control area is being assessed in the study. Photo: Nicolas Rakotopare.
What research activities are being undertaken?
In particular this research project will:
The research will assess quoll and cat numbers in areas subjected to broad-scale cat-baiting and in comparable (control) areas not exposed to baiting.
Who is involved?
The research project is being undertaken by researchers from Charles Darwin University, who are working collaboratively with Rio Tinto and DBCA researchers who are responsible for the cat baiting program and aspects of the quoll and cat monitoring studies.
Where is the research happening?
This research is being undertaken on the Yarraloola pastoral lease in the Pilbara region in WA.
When is the research happening?
The project commenced in mid-2016 and will run until June 2021. One broad-scale baiting episode will be implemented per year.
For more information please contact Billy Ross - firstname.lastname@example.org
Top Image: Billy Ross with a Northern Quoll captured for a health check and monitoring. Photo: Nicolas Rakotopare