Protecting Australian Wildlife from Feral Cats

Feral cats represent the greatest threat to many Australian wildlife species. They have been implicated in at least 27 mammal extinctions across Australia and currently threaten more than 100 native species, including mammals, lizards and ground nesting birds. They not only prey on endangered wildlife but transmit diseases. Ubiquitous across most Australian habitats feral cats are often indistinguishable from ranging pet cats which complicates control options.

Feral cats are notoriously difficult to control as they are reluctant to take baits or enter traps, particularly when prey, such as small native mammals, are abundant. All cats are fastidious cleaners that groom regularly. Thylation has come up with the idea of targeting the natural grooming behaviour of the cat and has developed and patented the Felixer, a novel, humane and automated tool to help control feral cats and foxes.

Felixers use rangefinder sensors to distinguish target cats and foxes from nontarget wildlife and humans etc and spray targets with a measured dose of toxic gel. The solar-powered Felixer which can hold 20 sealed cartridges of toxic gel automatically resets after firing. Felixers photograph all animals detected (including nontargets that are not fired upon) and can be programmed to play a variety of audio lures to attract feral cats and foxes.

What’s in the name Thylation?

Thylacoleo (the marsupial lion) and Thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) were iconic Australian apex predators, which like wolves, lions and sharks once helped to balance the ecosystems they presided over. Extinction of these apex predators has allowed secondary predators, like feral cats and foxes, to decimate Australian species. Reversing this trend requires restoring the apex predator role.

Thylation is a verb coined to describe the reinstatement of the Australian apex predator capacity to protect wildlife threatened by cats and foxes. Although Thylacoleo and Thylacine can’t be brought back from extinction, thylation can be achieved through development of novel techniques to balance our ecosystems, mirroring the role of these once mighty marsupial predators.

Ecologists have long called for a better toolbox of techniques to manage feral predators. Except rather than a shiny red toolbox filled with precision mechanic’s tools, ecologists need to nurture and develop novel tools and techniques. Coincidentally, the etymology of Thylacine and Thylacoleo harks back to the Greek word ‘thulakos’ for pouch or sack – a fur-lined toolbox to foster thylation.

Thylation enables conservation through innovation.