Felixers were developed and patented by Ecological Horizons with assistance from several NGOs and Government grants as a novel, humane and automated tool to help control and reduce the number of feral cats and foxes, and thus improve the welfare of native animals.
In February 2020 Thylation received $1.2M in grant funding from the Australian Government’s Environment Restoration Fund to support the commercialisation of Felixers. You can read the Summary of the Grant outcomes here.
Felixers use rangefinder sensors to distinguish target cats and foxes from non-target wildlife and humans, and spray targets with a measured dose of toxic 1080 gel. The solar-powered Felixer which can hold 20 sealed cartridges of toxic 1080 gel, resets automatically after firing. Felixers photograph all animals detected (including non-targets that are not fired upon) and can be programmed to play a variety of audio lures to attract feral cats and foxes. A choice of software settings control the sensitivity and likelihood of firing on target cats and foxes.
Why do feral cats require control?
In environments like Australia and many islands where cats aren’t native, feral cats can have a devastating effect on naïve wildlife. Cats have driven many mammals and some birds to extinction and potentially threaten a further 74 mammals, 40 birds, 21 reptiles and 4 amphibians in Australia. Outdoor cats also transmit diseases to humans and wildlife. Further information on the threats of feral cats and control options is available from the Resources page.
Why develop a grooming trap for feral cats?
Although feral cats are often reluctant to take baits or enter traps, they fastidiously groom, creating a pathway to instinctive toxin delivery. Toxin delivery through grooming has advantages over conventional traps because the feral cat does not need to be restrained and ‘traps’ don’t need to be frequently checked and rebaited. Recognising the need and opportunity for grooming-based cat control Action 1.2, a ‘very high priority’ of the Australian Government Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by Feral Cats (2015) is to ‘Develop and register other cat control tools, including devices exploiting cat grooming habits’.
Do Felixers affect other carnivores?
Most Australian native carnivores (including quolls) are too small to activate Felixers although the larger Tasmanian devil does activate Felixers on occasions. Adult dingoes are too tall to activate Felixers, but pups would be targeted and if they groom would be at risk from Felixers. Therefore, Felixers may need to be deactivated in whelping season where maintenance of dingo populations is important. Felixers effectively target foxes and enabled control in pen experiments and limited field trials, but further research is needed to confirm or optimise efficacy at fox control. Felixers are considered a more humane method of controlling feral cats due to their target-specificity (much lower likelihood of negative effects on non-target native species) enabling a high dose of 1080 toxin to cause more rapid death.
What conditions are required to trial or operate Felixers?
Use of agricultural chemicals, including toxins, in Australia is governed by the Australian Pesticide and Medical Veterinary Authority (APVMA). Because Felixers use a new technique to administer toxins, all use of Felixers armed with toxin must currently be covered under a restricted use APVMA research permit (issued to Ecological Horizons), which provides deployment, signage and reporting requirements. New trial sites can be approved by State or regional biosecurity officers, who also administer State-specific poisons regulations. Thylation are expecting Felixer Cartridges to be registered by APVMA before the end of 2021 which should enable more widespread use, albeit with similar safety and deployment conditions. All Felixer Users should complete the Felixer Training Video to ensure optimal deployment and performance and must do so prior to being issued toxic cartridges.
Where are Felixers currently being trialled?
Field trials of Felixers have been underway since 2015 and are currently underway in all Australian States and Territories, targeting threatened species including bilbies, bettongs, rock wallabies, quolls, malleefowl, ground parrots, numbats and rare dunnarts and rodents. Some of these trials are in photo-only mode whilst permission for loading with 1080 is received. Trials have been conducted or supported by 6 government environment bodies, 4 environmental NGOs, 4 indigenous ranger groups and 5 mining companies.
How are data accessed and analysed?
Felixers take a photograph every time their sensors are intercepted, whether set in photo-only mode or in live fire mode, and the images are classified as target or non-target by the Felixer algorithm. Also included is a detailed data log of key attributes (date, time, battery power, lure played, detailed sensor activation, temperature) that are used for analyses, diagnostics and performance optimisation. Felixers therefore operate as both a management tool and a sophisticated camera trap monitoring device. Data are stored on a USB that is also used to upgrade software. Thylation have developed the web-based Felixer Management System to upload and store all data, with specific access provisions provided to Project site managers and the overall Felixer management team. These data are then used to compile site-based statistics and also overall performance and target specificity information for the national trial.
Results from the most comprehensive trials conducted to date at Venus Bay CP, Secret Rocks Nature Reserve, Kangaroo Island and Arid Recovery suggest that Felixers provide a target specific and safe tool for feral cat management as summarised in a scientific paper published by Wildlife Society Bulletin. The first comprehensive efficacy trial conducted at Arid Recovery in early 2018 successfully targeted 72 cats (but no bilbies, birds, quolls, rabbits, bettongs and only one non-target kangaroo) and detected a 66% reduction in feral cat activity within 2 months. Updates from other trials will be posted on this website.
Are Felixers perfect?
Because the oldest Felixers have only been in the field for 5 years and Thylation have redesigned later units to take advantage of new technology or fix earlier bugs, we continue to face the inevitable challenges of deploying sophisticated equipment in field settings. Early Felixer adopters are assisting with the continuous improvement of these devices and occasionally experience glitches that require troubleshooting advice or software upgrades, or occasionally a trip back to the engineering workshop for diagnosis and repair. Felixers work best when set up inconspicuously to not attract inspection by feral cats as they are triggered by a feral cat walking by perpendicular to the sensors.
Do Felixers require any maintenance or servicing?
It’s still relatively early days for field trials but we don’t anticipate regular servicing will be required except for cleaning sensors and the solar panel with a cloth after rain or dust storms and checking on the solar panel positioning and connections, especially after storms. If Felixers are not set (in sunny conditions) for extended periods it is important to connect them to the battery charger to maintain the battery. Occasional software updates need to be made by uploading from the USB. The User Manual contains detailed instructions on tests, diagnostics and software upgrades.
Felixer V3.1 cost?
The current version 3.1 Felixers are available for lease. Additionally, gel cartridges can be ordered separately upon receipt of 1080 permits from end users. Additional costs associated with freight, training, support for approvals and ongoing support will be determined on a case by case scenario. Contact us to receive a quote that aligns with your needs.
Can the Felixer be rented?
Felixers are available for min. 3 month lease, which can be extended on a monthly or annual basis. Please note that there is limited availability of rental units. We are slowly growing our fleet of Felixers, please let us know if this option is of interest to you.
Terms and conditions
Until broadscale registration is received, which is anticipated before the end of 2021, Felixers can only be operated with toxins if approved by the APVMA and State or Territory 1080 authorities. Potential Felixer Users should also check whether Animal Ethics &/or Scientific Research permits are required for participation in these research trials. Users also need to provide core data to Thylation to satisfy reporting agreements, albeit with appropriate masking of any site-specific sensitive information and recognition of participant contributions.
By issuing a Purchase Order or paying an invoice you are entering into an Agreement with Thylation Operations Pty Ltd subject to our Terms and Conditions Document that you can access in PDF by clicking on this link.