Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation’s (WGAC) Healthy Country Team (including the Uunguu Rangers and Traditional Owners) recently completed field work to trial two Felixer cat traps at Ngauwudu (Mitchell Plateau) in the North Kimberley, Western Australia. The trial on Wunambal Gaambera Country is the first regional trial of the Felixer, an automated tool to help control feral cats and foxes. 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 gel. This trial was a ‘photo-only’ trial with no toxins used.
Wunambal Gaambera Country is in the Mitchell subregion of the North Kimberley bioregion,which is recognised as a biodiversity hotspot. It retains its full suite of mammals including several that have become extinct elsewhere in Australia such as the golden bandicoot, golden-backed tree-rat and several endemics such as the monjon and the scaly-tailed possum.
Cats present a major threat to small-to-medium sized mammals, particularly as other threats to mammals increase such as cane toads and climate change.
John Read, inventor of Felixer and researcher, came and taught Wunambal Gaambera’s Healthy Country Team how to deploy and use the Felixers.
“This trial in partnership with WGAC, is the first time the Felixer has been trialed in the Kimberley, the only place in Australia that has the complete suite of mammal species. It is really important we trial it here on Wunambal Gaambera Country, because, to our knowledge, we haven’t lost any mammals. We believe from studies elsewhere that Felixers can distinguish local northern quolls and dingoes from target cats and foxes, so it is important to confirm this in photo only trials before Felixers are deployed in toxic mode.”
This trial is incredibly important for the Kimberley region to detect cats in the Kimberley habitats and to ensure non-target species such as rock wallabies, scaly tailed possums, bandicoots and dingoes are not affected. It is very important to trial safe methods of feral cat control that, unlike baiting, do not place native predators at risk.
Catherine Goonack, Chair WGAC commented, “our Country is so precious and it is our responsibility to protect it and keep it healthy. Our Uunguu Rangers and Traditional Owners are doing a good job of keeping it healthy and following our health country targets. Using the Felixer trap will help us keep our country healthy and our small mammals protected.”
Our Healthy Country Team has seen some photos and initial results from the trial, which shows that Felixers did not classify any native species as targets, which helps confirm the Felixers should be safe for controlling cats in this unique environment. Photos attached show the monjon at our Felixer trial site. The trial shows that the monjons were safely identified by the device.
This trial was funded by Australian Government Threatened Species Recovery Grant.
WGAC’s partners in this work are WWF, who administer the grant and support the field work as well as Bush Heritage Australia, who are a key partner with WGAC and involved in Felixer work elsewhere in Australia.
Bush Heritage Australia is testing Felixer traps at three field sites in Queensland – in Cape York in partnership with the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation, Ethabuka Reserve in far western Queensland and Pullen Pullen Reserve. Like the Wunambal Gaambera trial, the traps trialled by Bush Heritage are still in a test phase and do not contain toxin. Initial results are encouraging, and new trials are underway with revised deployment methods.
About WGAC – https://wunambalgaambera.org.au/