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Gene drive technology considered in the fight to save native animals from feral cats

ABC Online

RN Breakfast By Stephanie Smail

Feral cats kill thousands of native animals every minute — now a controversial plan to use gene drive technology as a weapon against them is being considered by the Federal Government.

Conservation groups want cats that only produce male offspring to be released into the wild as a way to save native mammals, such as bilbies and bettongs, that are under attack.

The CSIRO is investigating the technology, which the Federal Government said could be a "powerful tool" subject to careful study.

But scientists acknowledge there are risks, particularly if genetically modified cats made it to other countries and wiped out native cats there.

Black and white night vision of a cat carrying a small rodent in its mouth through the outback

Killing machines

Unlike other feral predators, cats live in every habitat in Australia, from the rainforest to the desert, the east coast to the west.

They are hard to see, hard to trap and hard to bait because they prefer their prey live.

Atticus Fleming, chief executive of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, said there were millions of feral cats across the country, and that has been taking a heavy toll on native wildlife.


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