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TAS Country : March 22nd 2012
Friday, March 23, 2012 Tasmanian Country 7 News Action at last on feral felines ROGER HANSON Unlikely allies delighted CUTE BUT DEADLY: Feral cats spread disease and attack wildlife. AN unusual alliance of farmers and environmental groups has welcomed the State Government's commitment to control feral cats, which can spread the debilitating disease toxoplasmosis. The State Government has finally decided to enact the Cat Management Act, which will come into force on July 1 as part of its overall revamp of its invasive species policies. The Act was passed in 2009, but just when it will be fully implemented has not been announced. The Tasmanian Farmers and Graz- iers Association (TFGA), Tamar Natu- ral Resource Management (NRM), the Tasmanian Conservation Trust (TCT) and Environment Tasmania (ET) wel- comed the decision, but said it was long overdue. The announcement included the cre- ation of an invasive species branch, which will help combat invasive ani- mals and plants that threaten the Tasmanian environment. The controversial Fox Eradication Taskforce, set up in 2002 and which has so far cost $50 million to operate, will now be absorbed into the new invasive species unit. The taskforce's staff of 47 will be given broader responsibilities. The invasive species branch will harness the expertise of specialists across the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environ- ment in a single, co-ordinated program. TCT director Peter McGlone said it was the strongest commitment yet made by the State Government. However, he questioned when the invasive species agency would be up and running. ''We ask that the Minister for En- vironment, Parks and Heritage, Brian Wightman, commit to a definite date not too far into the future,'' Mr McGlone said. Tamar NRM president Ian Sauer said implementing the policy could be very slow. ''We applaud the announcement by the minister, but we won't hold our breath in the delivery of the agency to combat the problem,'' Mr Sauer said. ''It's a shame the Australian Govern- ment doesn't take a leaf out of the Tasmanian Government's book in tackling invasive species of animals and plants. ''It is a logical step to combine activities responsible for monitoring and controlling invasive animal and plant species into the one agency. ''It's a clever move, but the Govern- ment must also facilitate research into toxoplasmosis.'' Both the TFGA and ET, in their latest Budget submissions, have pushed the Government to create the invasive species branch. The cat management legislation will help deal with the explosion in feral cat populations across the state. It will provide more stringent requirements for desexing cats and controlling feral cats on farms and in rural areas. Until now nobody could legally kill cats on their property, but landowners could kill dogs and a variety of native animals. TFGA chief executive Jan Davis and ET executive officer Peter Skillern said the revamp on invasive species policy showed that working together in areas where objectives could be agreed de- livered benefits to all Tasmanians. Feral cats are the major host of toxoplasmosis, a debilitating disease that can be lethal for humans. However, the parasite is not limited to humans. It can affect most warm- blooded animals, which can suffer a slow and painful death. Each year toxoplasmosis causes tens of thousands of dollars of losses in sheep in Tasmania. The disease has also become more prevalent among wallabies and other native animals. ''While it is important to remain vigilant about the threat of foxes, they are only one of many serious threats to Tasmanian agriculture and wildlife. With the improved growing conditions after the drought, there has been a rapid expansion of many pest species of animals and plants,'' Ms Davis and Mr Skillern said in a joint statement. Populations of feral cats, rabbits and wild dogs have exploded. Weeds such as gorse, ragwort, Engl- ish broom and serrated tussock have also spread even farther across the state. The annual cost of weeds alone to Tasmanian farmers is estimated to be $58 million. Tamar NRM has completed a two- phase project in northern Tasmanian called Feral Cat Management in the Weymouth and Bellingham Areas. There were three project stages: raising community awareness and education; subsidised sterilisation and micro-chipping of domestic cats; and trapping and euthanasing feral cats. Last year, all feral cats that were euthanased had their stomachs re- moved for analysis and blood samples were taken to look for the parasitic disease toxoplasmosis. Mr Sauer said all the feral cats were infected with toxoplasmosis. Tamar NRM, in conjunction with the community, trapped a total of 58 cats during phase one and 21 feral cats during phase two of the project. ''Farmers have reported an increase in early abortions in maiden ewes with as much as 60 per cent loss,'' he said. ''There has also been an increase in dopey wallabies and other native wild- life showing possible signs of toxoplas- mosis. ''Seventy-nine cats will consume around six tonnes of food per annum, with their preferred prey to be alive, which equals to at least three native birds and/or animals a day. This significantly decreases the number of native birds and animals.'' Only Authorized Lely Australia Dealer for Midlands and Northern Tasmania For more information visit: www.lely.com 6.5% Finance* on Welger Balers and Tigo Loaderwagons. *Talk to your local Lely dealer regarding tailor-made Lely Finance to suit your cash flow -- Conditions apply and to approved purchasers only. SMARTER IT'S AN OFFER FROM LELY YOU JUST CAN'T REFUSE! 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