By Jonathan Edwards
Australia’s six million feral cats may be eradicated via genetic technology. The country could help save its natural wildlife and eradicate alien species that are wreaking havoc on the landscape by deploying “genetic biocontrol solutions.”
Feral cats are a major issue in Australia. They are only second to European rabbits in terms of posing a danger to native species. Feral cats and foxes are said to have wiped out 25 native mammal species in Australia, as well as putting 800 vulnerable species at risk, thanks to rabbits, feral pigs, and a plant infection.
Feral cats kill around 530 million native frogs and reptiles, 450 million mammals, and 270 million birds in Australia each year.
The Australian government declared in 2015 that two million feral cats would be killed by 2020. Baiting, shooting, and poisoning were among the methods used. The government also planned to drop poisoned sausages into areas with big concentrations of wild cats.
Feral cats continue to wreak havoc on Australia’s natural wildlife despite these attempts. Experts have sketched out a method to manage invasive species that are harming wildlife in a paper issued by the government research organization CSIRO.
Stopping the spread of invasive species requires immediate and concerted action, according to Andy Sheppard, a CSIRO scientist and co-author of the paper. “Trying to manage the spread of pests and weeds once they are established will be significantly more expensive and ineffective,” he added in a statement. “We must harness emerging technologies safely, revitalize our biosecurity research and innovation (R&I) system, and continue to engage in long-term, strategic research and development,” says the report. Genetic control is one of the technologies mentioned in the paper. According to the paper, this has “significant potential to deter new intruders.” In recent years, scholarly studies have emphasized genetic management as a strategy of combating invasive species. This may entail adding genes that make a pest more disease-prone. Another strategy for suppressing reproduction is to introduce large numbers of infertile individuals into the population.
It’s also possible to change a species’ genes such that it only produces one sex, effectively preventing it from reproducing. “Genetic biocontrol approaches, such as causing all progeny in invading populations to be genetically modified,” the CSIRO paper warns. This is a condensed version of the information.