At the vanguard of the invasive species war

Dr Alex Kutt
Published 22 Jan 2019 
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Cats, together with other introduced species, are one of our biggest ecological challenges.<br/> Cats, together with other introduced species, are one of our biggest ecological challenges.
Spinifex at Pullen Pullen Reserve provides habitat for the critically endangered Night Parrot. Photo Annette Ruzicka.<br/> Spinifex at Pullen Pullen Reserve provides habitat for the critically endangered Night Parrot. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
Pullen Pullen landscape. Photo Annette Ruzicka.<br/> Pullen Pullen landscape. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
A Felixer cat trap in place along a burn line at Pullen Pullen Reserve. Photo Alex Kutt.<br/> A Felixer cat trap in place along a burn line at Pullen Pullen Reserve. Photo Alex Kutt.

A recent Guardian article highlighted how invasive species are the most significant threat to, and cause of, species decline and loss in Australia - and more destructive than climate change at present.

It’s a sobering assessment; and a sad reflection on the early attitude to our native species, that introduced plants and animals were perceived to have greater aesthetic or productivity benefits. The risk of these introductions to our native species and landscapes was ill-considered and unfortunately introduction of exotic pasture grasses or escaping nursery plants is an ongoing phenomena.

As the article’s authors point out, even when these “introduction” experiments go awry, the economic pests (which perversely includes even native species such as the Dingo) trump environmental ones for funding and focus.

Bush Heritage Australia, through its reserve and partnership network is at the battlefront of this war on feral plants and animals.

Our reserve network, funded by our donors and patrons, are pockets of security in sadly ever-changing landscapes. Our staff and fabulous volunteers are whacking weeds, felixing felines, harassing herbivores and busting buffel.

The research highlighted in the Guardian article, published in Pacific Conservation Biology, was led by Stephen Kearney, a PhD student at University of Queensland who is studying the management of protected areas in Australia. Stephen recently completed an Erica Foundation funded internship with Bush Heritage. He worked on Pullen Pullen, our precious Night Parrot reserve, where he spent three months monitoring feral cat populations using cameras, tracks and signs. This information is vital to our efforts to cost-effectively target our on-ground management.

“The internship provided me with a hands-on practical experience in the management of protected areas and threatening processes with a nationally respected conservation organization” said Stephen.

“Working on the ground at Pullen Pullen, one of the most beautiful places in Australia, gave me the understanding of the challenges facing landscape managers, and the complex interplay of practical conservation with policy, legislation and funding imperatives, that are required for threatened species recovery”.

The report suggested that critical to meeting this invasive species challenge is a coordinated and integrated national approach to land management. Bush Heritage Australia through our national reserve network and partnerships such those we have with the University of Queensland and the NESP Threatened Species Hub, is already on the ground, leading the charge.

Cats, together with other introduced species, are one of our biggest ecological challenges.<br/> Cats, together with other introduced species, are one of our biggest ecological challenges.
Spinifex at Pullen Pullen Reserve provides habitat for the critically endangered Night Parrot. Photo Annette Ruzicka.<br/> Spinifex at Pullen Pullen Reserve provides habitat for the critically endangered Night Parrot. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
Pullen Pullen landscape. Photo Annette Ruzicka.<br/> Pullen Pullen landscape. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
A Felixer cat trap in place along a burn line at Pullen Pullen Reserve. Photo Alex Kutt.<br/> A Felixer cat trap in place along a burn line at Pullen Pullen Reserve. Photo Alex Kutt.