Monday 2 August 2021

Feral cats are the costliest invasive species of Australia (but they forgot about people)

The people of Australia are not an invasive species because the aboriginals were there 50,000 years ago. But the feral cat is an invasive species and a study has decided that they are the costliest of the hundreds of individual species studied. They estimated that feral cats account for over AU$10 billion in damages and management expenses. Rabbits, pigs and rodents follow closely.

Feral cats are the costliest invasive species of Australia (but they forgot about people)
Australian feral cat. The enemy to millions of Australians. Image in the public domain.

In all, invasive species including plants have cost Australia at least AU$390 billion over the past 60 years. The researchers shone a spotlight on plants and animals. I would suggest that they also turn the spotlight around and point it at themselves. To the best of my knowledge, no study has looked at the amount of damage that humans do to the Australian economy in terms of damage and management expenses incurred.

There is no doubt in my mind, however, that the cost of humans to the economy is far greater than all other invasive species. The difference, of course, is that people also create the economy; they make the money. However, if you want to cut back on damage and the associated costs, I think it would be useful to take a spotlight to human activity as well. At least put them all together; humans and animals and plants. It would allow politicians to more accurately see where improvements can be made.

There is a call to invest more money in managing invasive species in Australia. Included in the damage done by non-native species, is the destruction of native animals, marsupials and mammals. Australia has a lot of very cute, small marsupials of which they are very proud. Understandably they don't like feral cats and foxes preying on them and eating them. Some are endangered.

From my standpoint, I see a huge distortion in the way that the Australian authorities are looking at these issues. Recently there were massive floods and wildfires in Australia. It is said that these were caused by global warming. Australia contributes to global warming by mining coal and selling it internationally. That's the kind of human activity I'm referring to and which should be put under the spotlight. The damage caused by these fires and floods I would argue are far greater than that caused by the invasive species.

The Barrier Reef is being destroyed by global warming. An iconic landmark of which Australia are rightly proud but they are contributing to its destruction.

And going forwards, it will get worse. And we have to project forwards. I think it is pretty clear that global warming is going to kill more Australian native species in the future than those killed by invasive species in the past. And global warming is a human behaviour issue. You cannot cut out of the equation human behaviour as studies always do.

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