Bushfire-ravaged Kangaroo Island is still crawling with feral cats, who are preying on the remaining wildlife in small patches of unburnt vegetation.
Bushfire-ravaged Kangaroo Island is still crawling with feral cats, who are preying on the remaining wildlife in small patches of unburnt vegetation.

Drones called in to kill feral cats

Drones equipped with military grade thermal sensors are helping on-ground shooters to kill feral cats prowling through bushfire-ravaged private property on Kangaroo Island.

Drones equipped with military grade thermal sensors are helping on-ground shooters to kill feral cats prowling through bushfire-ravaged private property on Kangaroo Island.

It comes as Environment Department staff prepare to reassess the feral cat population post-fire and determine future management actions.

Principal ecologist Dr Dan Rogers said efforts were already under way to trap and destroy cats in unburnt areas of Flinders Chase National Park, which serve as refuges for endangered species such as the KI dunnart and KI echidna.

Kangaroo Island artist Lara Tilbrook with her artwork “Fat Cat”. Photo Sam Wundke / AAP Photo.
Kangaroo Island artist Lara Tilbrook with her artwork “Fat Cat”. Photo Sam Wundke / AAP Photo.

"Those animals are being concentrated in those remaining patches, along with all the threats that might impact them," he said.

"They're the sites where feral cats will be concentrating their efforts on to get food, so that's really where we have to focus a lot of our attention, to protect those remaining animals and remaining patches."

KI artist and goldsmith Lara Tilbrook of Bush Organics, a member of the KI Conservation Landowners Association, is deeply concerned for wildlife on private property.

"We have species on the brink of extinction and we need an emergency response to protect those threatened species," she said.

"I personally don't believe the most effective and efficient means are being deployed for private landholders like me."

She paid Barossa-based company DronePro to conduct a one-week pilot project earlier this month, which involved both wildlife surveys and feral cat pest control.

DronePro chief executive James Reeves has developed a "completely new method" to target wily cats with aerial thermal imaging combined with on-ground shooters.

He believes now is the time to make a big difference to the feral cat population because it has already "taken a big hit" and much of the dense vegetation has been cleared by fire.

"I believe that this new method can be duplicated, with the right team of appropriately qualified and experienced people, to really follow up, since the devastation of the bushfires, to protect our native species from these really hard to get predators," he said.

"The ones that we are targeting particularly are the more cage-shy, or someone else has had a shot at them and they're trained, so they're very difficult to get hold of."

Ms Tilbrook was "desperate" to do more to protect critically endangered and threatened wildlife before it's too late, raising money through GoFundMe. She said even a small donation would help "and if you can't make a donation, it would be great if you could share the fundraiser to help spread the word".



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