The Asia Miner

JUL-SEP 2018

The ASIA Miner - Reporting Important Issues to Mining Companies in the Asia Pacific Region

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Page 34 of 55

the asia miner • volume 15 • issue 3 33 AROUND THE REGION An Australian innovaঞon offers a potenঞal soluঞon to the naঞon's feral cat problem, and mining companies in the Pilbara region of Western Australia are supporঞng the iniঞaঞve in one of the first naঞonal trials of the device to protect threatened naঞve species. Known as the Felixer, and about the size of a microwave, the device developed by South Australian environmental consultancy Ecological Horizons is placed in strategic locaঞons where feral cats pose a threat to naঞve animals. Using sensors and advanced algorithms, the Felixer automaঞcally idenঞfies feral cats and foxes by their unique shape and instantaneously administers a target-specific poison onto their fur. This approach takes advantage of the fact that feral cats, unlike other animals, are compulsive groomers and will ingest the toxin when licking their fur. In collaboraঞon with Department of Biodiversity, Conservaঞon and Aracঞons (DBCA) Western Australia, iron ore mining companies, Roy Hill and Fortescue are trialling the devices in the Pilbara as a means to protect iconic threatened species of the region. The two mining companies, with the assistance of Ecological Horizons and DBCA, deployed three of the devices for a two-year research period. Iniঞally, each Felixer will be used in photo-only mode to study its efficacy at idenঞfying cats and foxes. If proven successful, the acঞve mode will be employed, whereby a gel containing a measured dose of 1080 poison is sprayed onto target species. Since 1080 is a toxin that is naturally Mining companies support cat trapping innovation to protect threatened wildlife of the Pilbara Pilbara's unique wildlife is under threat of feral animals present in many of Australia's pea plants, naঞve animals have developed tolerance, while feral cats, foxes and other non-naঞve species do not have a resistance. Roy Hill and Fortescue both currently invest in feral animal control programs in the Pilbara, including trapping and baiঞng. Threatened species of the Pilbara that are vulnerable to cats include the northern quoll, greater bilby, Pilbara olive python, Pilbara leaf-nosed bat and the famously rare night parrot. For the bilby and northern quoll, the Pilbara also serves as a final stronghold for the species. "Australia has had the worst history of exঞncঞons," explained Dr Judy Dunlop from DBCA, the government agency overseeing the trials. "We have lost 30 mammal species since European colonisaঞon in 1788, and introduced feral predators are implicated in 28 of these exঞncঞons." "Pet cats that are sterilised and kept indoors are great companions; however, feral cats present a serious and ongoing threat to our naঞve wildlife. "While there is no silver bullet, the Felixer represents a significant opportunity to protect threatened species of the biodiversity-rich Pilbara bioregion." Australia's feral cat populaঞon poses a significant threat to biodiversity naঞonwide. Feral cats, found across all of Australia, have been shown to kill up to 400 different naঞve animal species. Feral cats in Australia are esঞmated to collecঞvely consume several million birds, repঞles and mammals every day. Even the most ambiঞous control programs that use a combinaঞon of methods, have proven incapable of eradicaঞng all feral cats. Dr John Read, the inventor of the Felixer and founder of Ecological Horizons, has encountered this problem first-hand. While releasing threatened bilbies for Arid Recovery, a conservaঞon research program in South Australia, feral cats repeatedly halted his progress.

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