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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Feral Troubles

Feral Troubles

Australia from space (credit: Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA)

Australians like to joke that they live in the beautiful Land of OZ with their capitol, Alice. Quick wit aside, their nation has some of the most remarkable plants and animals that are unique to the continent.

Exact estimates vary for the total number of Australian endemic species but nearly 85% of all mammals; 90% of the reptiles and amphibians; perhaps 45% of the birds; and over 80% of the plants are found nowhere else on Earth. New species are constantly being discovered. Australia is very large, with vast central regions quite arid, and human populations restricted to six large coastal cities. Endemic species are typically restricted to their habitat and often unstudied. The island continent is a place of wonder but much of its unique wildlife is threatened.

Multiple researchers from Australian environmental centers and Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory, noted in their aptly titled report, Ongoing unraveling of a continental fauna;

The distinctive and mostly endemic Australian land mammal fauna has suffered an extraordinary rate of extinction of 10% over the last 200 years. In comparison, only one native land mammal from continental North America became extinct since European settlement. A further 21% of Australian endemic mammal species are now threatened. Much of the loss of this fauna has been in areas remote from human population centers and recognized as relatively unmodified. The loss of Australian mammals is mostly due to predation by introduced species, the house cat and red fox.

What can be done? While, no one strategy is a solution to controlling all the feral predators an approach includes:

open-season hunting of feral species; laws restricting domestic cats to homes; sterilization of all cats; increased trapping of cats and foxes for elimination; animal proofing habitats and the removal of any feral predators inside; species specific fertility control drugs dispersed in food pellets in high feral animal areas; captive breeding of native species that have been reduced by feral predators; and increased education on the impacts of feral animals on native species

Only then can the colors of Australian start being restored. WHB


                 Feral cat with cockatoo  (credit:                               Feral fox with bandicoot  (credit: FeralScan)

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