Feral cats are threatening the last populations of the critically endangered kangaroo island pacifier in Australia. The small marsupials are only found on Kangaroo Island off the south coast.
It is estimated that there are only around 500 copies left. The devastating bushfires of 2019-2020 had already severely burned 98 percent of the animals’ habitat. A University of Adelaide study recently found that stray cats now pose another significant risk to the survival of the species.
Louis Lignereux and his team examined the stomach contents and digestive tract of 86 feral cats captured in specially designated sanctuaries on the island between February and August 2020. All cats were euthanized under the National Wild Cat Control Program and in accordance with South Australia’s animal welfare laws.
Study: Cats are efficient hunters of the species
Researchers identified the remains of eight kangaroo island narrow-footed pouch mice (Sminthopsis aitkeni) in the digestive systems of seven different cats — more than eight percent of all animals studied. This is the first time that it has been confirmed that cats are efficient hunters of the endemic predatory predator, according to the journal Scientific Reports.
‘Because small numbers of specimens are confined to a small geographic area, kangaroo island narrow-footed pouch mice are exceptionally vulnerable to stochastic events,’ the study states. The hunt by wild cats (Felis catus), which were introduced to Australia during European settlement, increases the pressure on the animals – and could possibly lead to their extinction. It is therefore urgently necessary to keep the populations of stray cats under control in areas where endangered species live.
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