Category Archives: New report

Feral Cat Control in Australia – 5-year report

Read the full report here.

Since 2015, members of ICON Science have been working with the Office of the Threatened Species Commissioner to assess the national management of feral cats across Australia. This work is part of the wider Threatened Species Strategy, and recognises the significant threat to Australia’s native species that is posed by feral cats.

Taking place across 5 years, this work aimed to document who is engaging in feral cat control, how many cats have been removed and how close Australia is to meeting the ambitious targets set out in the Threatened Species Strategy.

We are pleased to share the final report from this 5-year project, which has involved a cross section of the interdisciplinary team here at ICON Science.

Number of feral cats removed by individual survey respondents in each 2-digit postcode area

Methods
In addition to collated data from government reports and repositories, we undertook strategic online surveys of individuals and organisations who are most likely to be undertaking feral cat control. The 2020 online survey collected raw numbers of feral cats controlled, control area estimates, control methods and information on the type of environment where work has taken place. We also asked participants to indicate the location of their feral cat control activities (see featured map at top of post).

We used the variation in feral cat control numbers collected from the sample of local councils, farmers and shooters/hunters who took part in the survey to project the number of cats controlled on a national scale. This allowed us to provide a bounded estimate for the total number of feral cats removed between 2015 & 2020.

Posterior distributions and 95% credible intervals of a) the mean number of feral cats culled by farmers, and b) the projected total number of feral cats culled by farmers who engage in feral cat control but did not respond to our survey.

Key results
Our final 5-year cumulative estimate for the number of feral cats controlled ranges between 1,493,520 and 1,669,568 cats, with a most likely estimate of 1,581,544 cats having been removed from the environment since 2015.

Other results:
– 2917 individuals completed the online survey, 61% of whom said they were engaged in feral cat management (the survey was targeted at groups likely to be undertaking cat control).
– In our survey sample, feral cat control activities were concentrated in the more populous areas of eastern Australia.
– Non-government organisations engaged in feral cat control activities report most activity taking place in urban areas.
– Individuals are more likely to be operating in farmland or scrubland.

The unique area managed for feral cats as reported by respondents to our surveys, derived from the location data points and area estimates recorded by organisation and individual survey respondents.

Kirk, H., Garrard, GE., Kusmanoff, AM., Gregg, EG., & Bekessy, SA. (2020) Updated assessment of the national effort towards feral cat control. Report for the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. Download pdf

ICON tells Victoria’s Parliament to ‘walk the walk’ on urban greening

The ICON Science group has submitted our response to the Parliament of Victoria’s ‘Inquiry into Environmental Infrastructure for Growing Populations’. Our city has grown rapidly – has our access to nature kept up? 

It’s commendable that our leaders have turned their minds to this topic, as COVID-19 has reminded us of the enormous importance of natural capital such as local parks to people’s well-being. While green open spaces kept many of us healthy and happy through lockdown, Melbourne’s ‘environmental infrastructure’ could be better. RMIT research demonstrates that the city lost 2000ha of tree cover between 2014-2018, and many residents do not have a substantial green space in walking distance of home, as demonstrated by research by our colleagues in the Australian Urban Observatory. Many of the parts of the city with the least access to environmental infrastructure are also the city’s most socially disadvantaged, as demonstrated in the grey areas in the map below, prepared by researchers at ICON lab.  

It’s clear that we have some catching up to do, but how we do that is important. In our submission to the Inquiry into Environment Infrastructure, we wanted to ensure that tree canopy was considered ‘environmental infrastructure’ – there’s much more to urban nature than just grass and footy ovals. We have also highlighted that while efforts to increase green infrastructure should be ramped up, ensuring that they are of value to biodiversity and are easily accessible is equally important. These assets not only deliver health and social benefits, but also generate jobs and promote economic activities. In fact, they build safety nets and strengthen resilience of people, biodiversity, and ecosystems to shocks.

Many of the pieces are in place to improve the city’s environmental infrastructure. Melbourne has developed high-quality plans for urban nature, such as The Living Melbourne Strategy and the draft Metropolitan Open Space Strategy – we have the right words on paper. In the wake of COVID, now is the time “walk the talk”. Quick translation of such plans into action through expedited funding, resourcing, and removal of institutional barriers is of paramount importance.

You can read our submission here

The Little Things that Run the City

The little things that run the city 201115 (lowres)-1

How many insect species live in your city? How are they distributed amongst the city’s green spaces? What are the ecological processes they perform and ecosystem services they deliver? What are their most frequent ecological interactions?

The Little Things that Run the City is a project that aims to address these and other questions within the boundaries of the City of Melbourne, Australia. Results stemming from this research are contributing to identify particular insects with key functional roles that benefit human city dwellers, determine where to prioritise conservation activities, guide the design and maintenance of green spaces, and assist city’s decision-makers in considering insects in broader biodiversity plans and strategies.

The project was inspired by Edward O. Wilson’s famous quote “…let me say a word on behalf of these little things that run the world”. Almost 30 years ago, he was keen to see that the circle of concern for animal conservation was beginning to encompass non-vertebrate animalsIn this project we sought to further expand this circle so that it may also encompass the conservation of insects and other invertebrates in urban environments. Join us as we say a word on behalf of the little things that run the city.

Cover artwork by Kate Cranney.