Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Friday, 15 August 2014

Cat eradication on Hermite island

Feral cats (Felis catus) and black rats (Rattus rattus) became established on the Montebello Islands, an archipelago of about 100 islands, islets and rocks off the Pilbara coast of Western Australia, during the late 19th century. They were probably introduced from pearling vessels. The largest island in the group is Hermite at 1020 ha. Three species of native mammals and two of birds became extinct well before the British used the islands for testing nuclear weapons in the 1950s. Montebello Renewal (part of the ‘Western Shield’ fauna recovery programme) aims to eradicate feral animals from, and reintroduce and introduce threatened animals to, the Montebellos. Rats occurred on almost every island and islet when eradication was attempted in 1996. In 1999 small numbers of rats were detected on Hermite and two adjacent islands and work is under way to eliminate them. Feral cats occurred on several islands at various times, but by 1995 were naturally restricted to Hermite. Feral cat eradication took place in 1999 and comprised two stages – aerial baiting and trapping. Aerial baiting utilised recently developed kangaroo meat sausage baits with flavour enhancers and the toxin 1080. About 1100 baits were dropped by hand from a helicopter. Hermite Island has two main soil types – sand and limestone. Aerial baiting primarily targeted sandy soils. Four cats, all females, remained after baiting. These were trapped using Victor ‘softcatch’® traps set either in association with phonic and odour lures or set in narrow runways. Eradication was achieved over a six-week period. Searches for evidence of cat activity in 2000 confirmed that cats had been eradicated.

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