Tough cat law paves way for park quenda release

Councillor Adin Lang and Native Arc manager Dean Huxley investigate Booyeembara Park for native animal releases. Photo by Steve Grant.

BOOYEEMBARA PARK could soon be home to native quenda, turtles and bobtails courtesy of Fremantle’s tough new cat laws.

Cockburn wildlife hospital Native Arc is looking at using the park to release rehabilitated animals, which manager Dean Huxley says is only feasible with the new cat laws to prevent fauna being re-injured.

“From the size of it, I would say we could release about 50 quenda a year in the park,” Mr Huxley said on a visit to Booyeembara on Thursday.

He said fencing would be ideal, but the small marsupials were short-lived, high-breeding animals well suited to the environment.

Mr Huxley says the park was ideal for releasing bobtail lizards and native birds, while the lake and artificial wetland might sustain a turtle population.

Native Arc became involved after being contacted by Fremantle councillor Adin Lang, who put forward the new cat laws.

He’s also been in contact with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, which would need to issue a license before releases took place, and says the reception has been very positive.

The department is also assessing Samson Park as another potential release site.

Cr Lang said he was very nervous putting up the law, which bans cats from 12 bushland areas in the city and imposes $200 fines for owners of straying moggies.

He was expecting a fierce backlash from cat owners, but said he was blown away by the support.

“On my Facebook page it’s the biggest post I’ve done, there’s hundreds of likes and all the comments are positive,” he said.

“We put up a survey, which went for longer than usual because it was over Christmas, and it attracted 78 submissions, and of those, only three were against.”

Mr Huxley says if the Booyeembara releases got the go-ahead from the department, he hoped it would act as a catalyst for other metropolitan councils to reassess their bushland reserves as potential release sites.

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said he hoped the new law encouraged responsible cat ownership.

“Roaming cats can kill and disturb native wildlife and can cause a nuisance through spraying and fighting,” Dr Pettitt said.

New research by the federal governent’s National Environmental Science Program released last week found that pet cats were responsible for killing 390 million animals every year.

On average, each roaming pet cat kills 40 native reptiles, 38 native birds and 32 native mammals per year.

Research leader Sarah Legge from the University of Queensland and her team had previously studied the impact of feral cats.

Prof Legge said pet cats killed less than their feral counterparts, but there were more of them and they were more concentrated, making the suburbs prime killing ground.

“Every cat counts; there are documented cases of even single pet cats driving the decline of a species in their local area, sometimes to the point of local extinctions,” she said.

By STEVE GRANT

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