Wednesday 1 May 2019

Dogged researchers show that dingoes keep feral cats in check

APRIL 8, 2019

by Lachlan Gilbert, University of New South Wales
Dingoes play a key role in the conservation of Australian outback ecosystems by suppressing feral cat populations, a UNSW Sydney study has found.
A UNSW Sydney study has ended an argument about whether or not dingoes have an effect on feral cat populations in the outback, finding that the wild dogs do indeed keep the wild cat numbers down.
In a paper published recently in Ecosystems, the researchers compared dingo and feral cat populations either side of the world's longest fence that also doubles as the border between South Australia and New South Wales.
The fence was erected in the 1880s to in an attempt to keep dingoes from attacking sheep flocks in NSW and Queensland.
With a very small number of dingoes on the NSW side of the fence and much larger number on the SA side, the fence offered a perfect opportunity to observe feral cat numbers in identical environments with and without the influence of dingoes.
Professor Mike Letnic from the Centre for Ecosystem Science, UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, says that over the course of a six year study – between 2011 and 2017 – he and his fellow researchers compared the numbers of dingoes, cats and their major prey species either side of the dingo fence in the Strzelecki Desert.
"We collected dingo scat and cat scat and analysed them to compare diets, while we also used spotlight searches to record numbers of each as well as two of their common food sources – rabbits and hopping mice," he says.

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