A group in Australia that works to protect animals has completed the world’s largest cat-proof fence. Now the group can begin to bring back the animals that used to live in the area long ago.
To understand the problem that made the group build the fence, you have to understand the difference between native and introduced animals. Native animals are naturally found in an area and belong there. Introduced animals have been brought to the area – often by humans.
Native animals usually have a kind of balance in their habitat – the area where they live. There are not too many of them and not too few. But when introduced animals come in, they often change this balance and make it hard for the native animals to survive.
Because humans like cats, cats are one of the most commonly introduced animals. Cats that live on their own in the wild are called feral cats, and they are great hunters. Feral cats are a big problem for natural wildlife around the world. People brought cats to Australia from Europe to control animals like rats, but soon the cats became a problem.
Australia is famous for its unusual wildlife. Many people have heard about animals like kangaroos, wallabies, and koala bears. But there are many more besides these. And many of these special animals have been hunted by feral cats until there are almost none left.
In central Australia, a group called Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) is trying to make a safe place for animals that have been hunted by feral cats and feral foxes. The place is called Newhaven Sanctuary, and it is protected by the world’s largest cat-proof fence.
The fence is 27 miles (44 kilometers) long. Because it is electric, it will keep feral cats and foxes out so that native animals can live safely inside. The area inside the fence is 36 square miles (94 square kilometers).
AWC says that before the fence, feral cats in the area could easily kill as many as 73,000 animals a year, including reptiles and birds. The group is working with local rangers to track down and remove the feral cats and foxes. They have already removed about 30 cats and they think that about 20 are left. They hope to remove the rest by the end of 2018.
The exciting part of the plan is bringing back the animals that used to live around Newhaven before the feral cats became a problem. AWC has plans to bring back 11 kinds of animals that used to live naturally in the area. AWC calls this process “rewilding”. Some of the animals are ones that many people have never heard of. For example, the mala, the bilby, and the golden bandicoot.
The group has already begun bringing back a few mala to a smaller area inside the fence. Once they bring back enough animals, they think the numbers will go up quickly. They hope to have 18,000 mala in about 10 years.
It cost about $3.7 million (US) to build the world’s largest cat-proof fence, but the group has even bigger plans. In the future, they hope to protect an area as large as 270 square miles (700 square kilometers), or maybe even bigger.
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