Cat fence planned for central Australia

Plans are underway to construct a 65,000 hectare cat-free zone in central Australia, to prvide a safe haven for native species (photo: Mark Marathon, Wikimedia Commons)..

An ambitious $8 million plan to build the world’s biggest feral cat fence is under way in central Australia.

According to an article in the NT Times, the New Haven Wildlife Sanctuary, about 350km northwest of Alice Springs, will host a 65,000ha cat-free zone in a bid to re-create the wildlife-rich landscape ­witnessed by early European explorers.

Australian Wildlife Conservancy chief executive Atticus Fleming labelled the area a “marsupial ghost town” and said the ­project was of “global proportions”.

“The really great thing for Central ­Australia, if this gets done, is we will have a massive area that will be like ­stepping back to a time where feral animals don’t exist,” Mr Fleming said. “You will be able to wander through that bush like it was 150 years ago.”

Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world, Mr Fleming said.

He described feral cats as the biggest threat to native wildlife.

“It is time to draw a line in the sand and say we have lost enough,” he said.

Population numbers for species such as the mala, which is extinct in the wild, the golden bandicoot and central rock rat are expected to skyrocket once the feral predator-free zone is built. Species will be translocated from other sanctuary areas.

The project will use indigenous rangers from traditional owner groups Ngalia Warlpiri and Nyirripi to hunt the cats. Once complete, the 2m high fence could be up to 170km in diameter.

Stage one will be 50km and involve the establishment of a feral predator-free area of 8000-15,000ha by the end of 2017.

AWC has received a $750,000 grant from the Federal Government and needs to raise another $2.25 million.

Central Australian ecologist Rachel ­Paltridge, who has been working with Nyirripi rangers for the past two years, warned it would be a huge job to remove all the cats.

She said rangers were recently upskilled in methods and technologies including soft-jaw leg-hold traps.

The rangers follow cat footprints from the great desert skink burrows




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