Trying to control cats in South Australia's arid areas and Adelaide's metropolitan suburbs

Cats are prolific killers of native animals and birds.

Feral cats have spread to the most arid areas of South Australia, with each cat estimated to kill up to 1000 native animals a year. Attempts to cut cat numbers in the arid north have ranged from bait trials in 2013-14 on Roxby Downs Station to volunteers shooting a record 200 feral cats around the Arid Recovery Reserve, also near Roxby Downs. That cull alone was estimated to have saved the lives of 370,475 native animals over a year.

Another area targeted for eradicating feral cats by 2030 is Kangaroo Island.

John Wamsley, founder of Warrawong sanctuary at Mylor in the Adelaide Hills from 1969, led to the South Australian law change, allowing feral cats to be legally killed, by controversially wearing a dead-cat hat to a tourism awards ceremony.

Another South Australian cat activist, Christine Pierson, founded CATS (Cats Assistance To Sterilise) in 1988. This aimed to stop thousands of unwanted cats being killed in animal shelters by educate the community and assisting with desexing of hundreds of thousands of cats. CATS has been supported by a network of veterinary surgeons and metropolitan councils such as Unley, Norwood, Payneham & St Peters, Burnside, Port Adelaide Enfield, Holdfast Bay and Salisbury.

South Australian laws, developed by the Dog and Cat Management Board and the Local Government Association of South Australia, for cat and dog owners and breeders have made desexing compulsory of all dogs and cats born after July 2018 and microchipping made compulsory of all dogs and cats irrespective of their date of birth.

Still outside these laws is the problem of unowned cats, estimated at around half a million in South Australia in 2019.

Other related ADELAIDEAZ articles

Earth's biggest gravity warp in fault-zone area of northwest South Australia near Marla

The Earth’s biggest gravity warp exerts itself in an area just north of the South Australian outback town of Marla, 1,100 kilometres northwest of Adelaide. This phenomenon is an upshot of complex geological movements half a billion years in the region of what is now the junction of the South Australian, Northern Territory and Western Australian borders. For the Marla area, the effect was on the layer – called the mantle – underneath the Earth’s crust. In the Marla area, the mantle rises 30 kilometres closer to the Earth’s surface than elsewhere. The direct cause of this is the Woodroffe Thrust Fault from the north confronting the Mann Fault from the south. This combined east-west fault zone has created a subterranean mountain out of the Earth’s mantle that’s so large it actually warps the Earth's gravity field. Dr Tom Raimondo, a geoscientist and program director for environmental and geospatial science at the University of South Australia, describes the actual effect of the fault zone: Gravitational acceleration is faster in the red areas at the core of the fault zone compared to the blue areas either side. The difference in gravity along the fault zone is so dramatic that it has been recognised as the largest continental gravity gradient anywhere in the world. So if you were to drop a rock on your foot on the journey from Adelaide to Darwin, better to do it at a fuel stop in Marla than while sightseeing at the border of South Australia and the Northern Territory — the lower gravity at Marla means the rock will be slightly lighter so it might hurt a little less”.

South Australia's great glacial geology inspires Douglas Mawson's two Antarctic expeditions

Douglas Mawson’s legendary expeditions to the Antarctic (1907 and 1911) were inspired by his interest in the glacial geology he found in South Australia. Mawson’s idea for going to the Antarctic was to see an existing continental icecap and to become acquainted with glaciation and its geological consequences. This interested him because, in his South Australian studies, he was “face-to-face with a great accumulation of glacial sediments of Precambrian age, the greatest thing of the kind recorded anywhere in the world”. (Mawson’s expeditions preceded knowledge of South Australia’s geological link to Antarctica as part of the Gondwana supercontinent.) Mawson came to Adelaide in 1905 as lecturer in mineralogy and petrology at the university in 1905. A pioneer in the chemical aspects of geology and geochemistry, Mawson's immediate interest in South Australia’s glacial geology led to him identifying the mineral davidite, containing titanium and uranium, from the region now known as Radium Hill. He investigated the highly mineralised Precambrian rocks of the Barrier Range, from the northern Flinders Ranges to Broken Hill. Mawson's Antarctic expeditions, especially  in 1911, collected huge scientific data. Mawson returned to Adelaide University in 1919 and his main interest during the next 30 years remained the “Adelaide System” of Precambrian rocks, especially in the Flinders Ranges. He concentrated on Proterozoic stratigraphy and Precambrian glaciation, showing glacial beds extended for 1,497 km and glacial conditions existed intermittently over much of Proterozoic time.

Long fence across South Australia the centre of debate over dingoes' role in a natural balance

The 5,614-kilometre dingo or dog fence, ­one of the world’s longest, was built during the 1880s from Surfer’s Paradise across lower Queensland and down through South Australia, ending west of Eyre Peninsula, on the Nullabor Plains cliffs above the Great Australian Bight, near Nundroo. Designed to keep dingoes out of the south-east of Australia, and to particularly protect sheep flocks, the fence has been partly successful, though dingoes are found in parts of the southern states. The fence helped reduce losses of sheep to predators (including wild dogs) but dingo offspring have passed through holes in the fence. Feral camels, descendants of those imported to work in 19th Century South Australia, have increasingly smashed down sections of the fence. The dingo, as an apex predator, has been defended by university researchers as important in maintaining natural balance. They argue that reintroduced or existing dingo populations could increase biodiversity across more than two million square kilometres of Australia. The lack of dingoes inside the fence has the effect of more rabbits and kangaroos competing with sheep and cattle for pasture. Dingoes have been shown to keep down foxes and cats – with benefits for native marsupials and grasses. But pastoralists represented by Livestock South Australia called for repairs to 1,600 kilometres of the dog fence, after a report to the state government showed that dingoes/wild dogs killed 19,026 sheep in 2018 –expected to climb to 26,639 at the current rate. Cost of repairing the fence was estimated at $25 million. 

Ediacaran dawn-of-life site in South Australia's Flinders Ranges to get national park protection

The internationally significant fossil site in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges, described as the dawn of animal life, became part of the Ediacara Conservation Park in 2019. The Ediacara fossils found at Nilpena Station, about 500km north of Adelaide, are more than 500 million years old and some of the oldest examples of multicellular complex organisms. The South Australian government signed agreements in 2019 to give the fossils more protection, on top of their national heritage listing. That included expanding the national park, starting a Flinders Ranges Ediacara Foundation, and a deal with Nilpena Station owners for the government to buy 60,000 hectares at the site. The agreement cost $2.2 million but more than $500,000 is from philanthropists, mostly through the foundation that will promote and preserve the site. The protected site will be the centrepiece of the state government’s case for UNESCO world heritage listing of the Flinders Ranges. The fossils were found by geologist Reg Sprigg in 1946, in the Ediacara Hills –  now the name of a geological period 645-542 million years ago. Scientists have identified impressions of more than 40 species of animals on what was an ancient seabed seabed. The United States’ NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) funded research at the site to learn how life might evolve on other planets. The fossils were featured in David Attenborough's Life documertary. Nilpena Station owner Ross Fargher hoped to get more protections for the fossils after the original discoverery site had been nearly totally stripped away. 

Wallaby recovery efforts in South Australia in zoos and at their rocky habitats

Rock wallabies – yellow-footed, black-footed and brush tail – have been the focus of recovery efforts in South Australia. The yellow-footed rock wallaby colonies were drastically cut or wiped out by European settlement in semi-arid areas of South Australia (Gawler, Flinders and Olary ranges), New South Wales and south-west Queensland. Adelaide Zoo has housed yellow-footed rockwallabies since it opened in 1883. Australian Wildlife Conservancy has being working to revive the species in the central Flinders Ranges by protecting a significant population at Buckaringa Sanctuary. This has particularly concentrated on controlling the threat from goats, foxes and cats in the sanctuary and on neighbouring properties. Since 2007, Aboriginal rangers and scientists have aimed to bring back the small black-footed rock wallabies (warru) to Pukatja/Ernabella predator-free enclosure on a rocky outcrop in far north Aboriginal APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjaraka Yankuntjatjara) lands. In 2017, 40 of the species – nearly wiped out by cats, foxes and buffel grass – was reintroduced into the wild to be radio monitored. The brush-tailed rock wallaby (petrogale penicillata) was regarded as extinct in Victoria by 1916 but later rediscovered. Threats remain including feral species and lost habitat. Zoos SA at Monarto is involved with captive breeding and cross fostering of brush-tailed rock wallaby joeys in surrogate mothers' pouches. Partners include Adelaide University, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve (ACT), Mt Rothwell Conservation and Research Centre (Victoria) and Waterfall Springs Wildlife Sanctuary (NSW).

Coorong, a haven for birdlife, created by sand dunes from 80,000 to 120,000 years ago

The Coorong, 152 km from Adelaide, is a set of complex and ancient sand dunes ranging from 80,000 to 120,000 years ago. The modern Coorong was formed between 6,000 and 20,000 years ago when the sea rose to form an island on top of the 80,000-year-old dune. This produced a lagoon behind the present line of seaward dunes. Many access points from the sea to the lagoon were filled over time by wind and the sands to create a narrow neck of sand dunes stretching 130km along the south-east coast of South Australia. The Coorong has some of Australia’s most spectacular birdlife around its series of mudflats, low-lying vegetation and lakes. Huge cranes, swans, pelicans, sandpipers, terns, white-faced herons, ibis, kites, galahs, rosellas, wattlebirds and currawongs join the variety of freshwater and saltwater birds. About 240 species of bird use The Coorong as their home. Some migrate from as far away as Siberia, China and Japan. Its fauna includes western grey kangaroos, echidnas, wombats, possums, snakes and the waters are still rich in mulloway, mullet and bream. Five Aboriginal tribal groupings – the Ngarrindjeri – lived on The Coorong (named from the local Aboriginal word “kurangh” for “neck”). They made bark and reed canoes, lived on the fish and molluscs in the area, and built shelters against the cold Southern Ocean winds. They were decimated by the arrival of Europeans, bringing smallpox, that raged all along the Murray River, and massacres that cut their numbers from about 3200 in 1842 to 511 by 1874. 

Contact Us

We welcome positive constructive feedback