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Context: Many Australian mammal species are highly susceptible to predation by introduced domestic cats (Felis catus) and European red foxes (Vulpes vulpes). These predators have caused many extinctions and have driven large distributional and population declines for many more species. The serendipitous occurrence of, and deliberate translocations of mammals to, ‘havens’ (cat- and fox-free offshore islands, and mainland fenced exclosures capable of excluding cats and foxes) has helped avoid further extinction.
Aims: The aim of this study was to conduct a stocktake of current island and fenced havens in Australia and assess the extent of their protection for threatened mammal taxa that are most susceptible to cat and fox predation.
Methods: Information was collated from diverse sources to document (1) the locations of havens and (2) the occurrence of populations of predator-susceptible threatened mammals (naturally occurring or translocated) in those havens. The list of predator-susceptible taxa (67 taxa, 52 species) was based on consensus opinion from >25 mammal experts.
Key results: Seventeen fenced and 101 island havens contain 188 populations of 38 predator-susceptible threatened mammal taxa (32 species). Island havens cover a larger cumulative area than fenced havens (2152 km2 versus 346 km2), and reach larger sizes (largest island 325 km2, with another island of 628 km2 becoming available from 2018; largest fence: 123 km2). Islands and fenced havens contain similar numbers of taxa (27 each), because fenced havens usually contain more taxa per haven. Populations within fences are mostly translocated (43 of 49; 88%). Islands contain translocated populations (30 of 139; 22%); but also protect in situ (109) threatened mammal populations.
Conclusions: Havens are used increasingly to safeguard threatened predator-susceptible mammals. However, 15 such taxa occur in only one or two havens, and 29 such taxa (43%) are not represented in any havens. The taxon at greatest risk of extinction from predation, and in greatest need of a haven, is the central rock-rat (Zyzomys pedunculatus).
Implications: Future investment in havens should focus on locations that favour taxa with no (or low) existing haven representation. Although havens can be critical for avoiding extinctions in the short term, they cover a minute proportion of species’ former ranges. Improved options for controlling the impacts of cats and foxes at landscape scales must be developed and implemented.