Predator cats and foxes are on the verge of creating a new calamity: mammal species in Australia are being wiped off the surface of this planet. Experts actually call this strange phenomenon:“extinction calamity.” Foxes and cats brought mostly from Europe by the initial settlers are causing an unprecedented fast extinction rate. These phenomena are usually caused by human hunt or loss of habitat. But with the Australian mammals things stand differently.
“A further 56 Australian land mammals are now threatened, indicating that this extremely high rate of biodiversity loss is likely to continue unless substantial changes are made,”
said the leader of the research, conservation biologist John Woinarski.
This study was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. It basically proves that over 10% of the land mammal species endemic to Australia have been wiped out since the European settlement took place, back in 1788. 21% of the mammals are currently endangered, but not yet extinct.
In order to discover the cause of the massive and rapid extinction, scientists tracked the fate of all the country’s land and marine mammals ever since the first European settlers initially arrived in Australia. And much to their surprise they found the decline coincided with two animals arrival onto the Australian land: the feral cat, which was brought by sailors to Australia on ships as they kept the on-board rat populations at a low range, along with red foxes, which were brought to the continent for hunting.
The scientists explained that seven species that used to be widespread on the Australian land now only live on islands that haven’t been colonised by cats or foxes. Moreover they also found that unlike the rest of the world, where the risk of extinction is affecting much larger animals, the Australian mammals that are being killed to extinction are rather small, just a perfect meal size for a cat or a fox.
Another culprit identified by scientists regarding the mammals’ extinction rate is the different way in which the nation’s wildfires are handled and managed. Meaning that during the past years, indigenous Australians used to set small fires on a regular basis, fires that burned away dry brush, which is a perfect tinder for wildfires. But this practice is no longer common today, and therefore wildfires have a tendency to ignite more frequent and to spread more widely, making the mammals lose their food sources and compelling them to hide in places that protect them from the hungry cats and foxes.