Animal rights groups have criticised the State Government’s decision to bait feral cats around Kalbarri as part of its attempts to help local wallaby populations survive.
Environment Minister Albert Jacob recently announced more than 1700 sq km of bush had been baited with the feral cat bait Eradicat.
“At Kalbarri National Park, this baiting directly assists the repopulation of black-flanked rock wallabies, which were rediscovered in the park last year after being considered locally extinct for 20 years,” Mr Jacob said in a statement.
But Animal Liberation WA president Ashley Jago called for alternatives to baiting.
“Humans shouldn’t use animals or harm them in any way. We don’t want to see either population [feral cars or wallabies] harmed,” she said.
Ms Jago said the State Government was spending a lot of money on baiting that would be better spent on exploring alternatives.
“Baiting isn’t a long-term solution it’s very much a short-term solution,” she said.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Australia campaign co-ordinator Claire Fryer said the feral cat population needed to be controlled, but Eradicat should not be used.
“This type of bait contains 1080 poison, which is a notoriously inhumane and indiscriminate killer … that causes slow agonising deaths that can take more than 24 hours,” she said in a statement.
Ms Fryer said PETA favoured contraception and exclusion fencing.
The RSPCA said it was sometimes necessary to manage populations of wild animals.
“Management activities must use methods that are humane, target-specific and effective,” the group said in a statement.
“RSPCA does not regard the use of 1080 poison as a humane form of population management.”
Mr Jacob said the baiting program would help the wallaby population, which had been boosted by the arrival of 23 wallabies from the Wheatbelt in May. Baiting would also safeguard local populations of chuditch and malleefowl.
The poison 1080 occurs naturally in certain native plant species, a Department of Parks and Wildlife spokesperson said in a statement.
“Many WA native animals have evolved with these plants and have a high tolerance to the poison, whereas introduced animals do not. As an introduced species, feral cats are very sensitive to 1080,” the spokesperson said.
Eradicat is a moist sausage-style bait designed to appeal to feral cats. The challenge has been to get the feral cats to consume the bait, because they prefer live prey.