Cats versus Native Cats
When it comes to describing pet cats words like loveable, intelligent and affectionate spring to mind. However there are other words to describe them: cunning, calculating and a major threat to biodiversity in Australia. In Australia it is estimated that 3.8 million kills by domestic cats of native animals occur each year (EPA 2010).
What are our other options of pets you say? What about our own native cat, the Quoll. Quolls are Australia’s largest carnivorous marsupial and are considered a keystone predator. There are four species of quolls in Australia: the northern, spotted-tailed, eastern and western quolls. Since 1770, all four species of Quoll through a combination of human modifications to the environment and the introduction of cats, quoll populations have declined dramatically. These impacts have meant that all four of Australia’s Quoll species are now either vulnerable or endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Current legislation in Australia prevents most native animals being kept as pets or bred for sale. However, for some animals it is seen as a great way of conserving them and boosting their public image. Dr Paul Hopwood from the University of Sydney stated
“Because people bond with their pets, it would generate interest in why these creatures are going extinct in the bush. By focusing on rare and endangered animal species the revenue from the animals sale could be used to supplement the scarce funds available for conservation and reintroduction programs in the wild”
Dr Meri Oakwood from the ANUand Dr Paul Hopwood from the University of Sydney surveyed 20 scientists and wildlife carers which have had experience with quolls. The conclusions were:
“Overall, it appeared that dietry components essential were readily available, housing was simple, Quolls were rarely demanding on time, mostly healthy and rarely stressed.’ Oakwood says. `Specialist attention, such as veterinary, was only required occasionally and no adverse human health effects were observed.”
Oakwood & Hopwood studies have suggested that there are definite possibilities towards Quolls being kept as house-pets and that a pilot study is recommended based on a captive breeding colony of quolls, whose offspring would be placed with carers as trial house-pets.
As someone who has had firsthand experience in keeping and raising a Quoll in Northern Territory in a house I cannot recommend them highly enough. They are very friendly, low maintenance, playful, intelligent and are easily toilet trained. When we moved “critter” was given to a captive breeding program in Darwin and was eventually released back into the bush.