Feral cats contribute to the deaths of billions of animals across Australia each year and on Phillip Island off the Victorian coast, they also prey on penguins, bandicoots, birds and possums.
- When Marbee is fully trained the border terrier will use its heightened sense of smell to detect feral cats
- Phillip Island has hundreds of thousands of visitors a year and is renowned for its wildlife, which is often a food source for wild cats
- Cat owners are urged to be vigilant with their feline pets to prevent them from contributing to the feral population
But with the help of puppies like Marbee, wild cats may become a thing of the past at one of state’s most popular tourist destinations.
The border terrier pup will play a key role in eliminating feral cats from Phillip Island Nature Parks and will be joined by one more puppy in coming months.
When she is fully trained in 12 to 18 months, she will be the island’s first feral cat detection dog.
The park’s pest animal project manager Stuart Murphy said Marbee was being trained to use her heightened sense of smell to specifically detect and track wild cats.
He said last year 150 feral cats were captured on Phillip Island and it was hoped that the detection dogs would help eradicate them from the island entirely.
“Dogs have got a sense of smell that’s up to 100,000 times stronger than a human.
“She’ll be our eyes, ears and nose … she’ll guide us towards hot spots where feral cats are living.
“In a similar way to quarantine dogs detecting certain things at airports … Marbee is trained to look for a different odour and she gets a little treat when she indicates a feral cat,” Mr Murphy said.
Feral cats implicated in mammal extinctions
Research last year showed that feral and domestic cats killed billions of animals annually in Australia.
Despite being the same species as domestic cats, feral cats are usually born in the wild and must hunt their own food to survive which is often native wildlife.
Mr Murphy said the cats had the ability to spread diseases to other animals which was detrimental to the survival of endangered species in Australia.
“Twenty-eight of the last 29 mammal extinctions in Australia … feral cats have been implicated in.
“They can transmit diseases such as toxoplasmosis which can affect the survival rate of small mammals such as our eastern barred bandicoot that we’ve got on Phillip Island.”
Mr Murphy said once captured in the wild, cats went through a rigorous screening process to determine whether they were feral or domestic.
“We factor in aspects such as how close to the nearest house the cat was captured, whether it has any physical identification such as a collar or a tag on it and we scan them for microchips.
“We then refer them onto the local council who can look them up on their data base and return them to their owners.”
Meanwhile feral cats were “humanely euthanised as part of the Nature Park’s program using State Government approved techniques”.
Keep your cat inside at night
Phillip Island Nature Parks and the local council encouraged cat owners to look after their pets to prevent them from contributing to the feral population.
“Having your domestic cat desexed prevents those unwanted litters contributing to the feral population.
“Also keeping your cat inside at night keeps your cat from being injured from fighting with feral cats that might be in that area and prevents them from contracting diseases.”
The management of pest animal species on Phillip Island has resulted in increased numbers of native wildlife including penguins and the eastern barred bandicoot, which is considered extinct in the wild on mainland Victoria.
“They are doing really well since the eradication of foxes from the island in 2017.
“We just need to give them [native animals] a bit more of an opportunity to breed by putting more effort into the feral cat program and that’s where dogs like Marbee come in.”
- The Border Terrier - Its Characteristics And Evolution
- Top 10 National Parks in the US
- Granite Mountains To Steamy Jungles - Sabah, Borneo
- Black Water & Breakfast and the Drizzle (Pre Chapers To "The Green Sea of the Amazon")
Marbee the border terrier helps to protect Phillip Island native wildlife by tracking down feral cats have 863 words, post on www.abc.net.au at April 22, 2020. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.