North-west of Alice Springs, the Newhaven wildlife sanctuary has begun building a 44-kilometre fence designed to keep out feral cats.
At 262,000 hectares, the wildlife sanctuary comprises “one of Australia’s largest non-government protected areas” according to its website.
According to ABC Rural, the materials for the first stage of this project arrived on June 12.
The first stage will involve creating a 44-kilometre fence to protect 9,500 hectares of the Newhaven property.
Before long, the project will expand to cover the entire Newhaven area, making it the largest fence of its kind in the world.
Tim Allard, the national operations manager for Australian Wildlife Conservancy, says in an ABC Rural article that feral cats are “decimating millions of native species every night”.
“At the moment, the best way we can [get rid of feral cats] is by building a fence, eradicating feral animals from within it, and reintroducing native animals,” says Allard.
Allard maintains that, once the feral animals have been culled, the native population will be reintroduced and at least 10 native species should begin to thrive once more.
Feral animals are one of the chief threats to the population of native Australian animals, according to Allard; other big threats include weeds and mismanaged fire.
This will not be the first fence built to eradicate feral cats: the Mt Gibson wildlife sanctuary in Western Australia completed work on a 43-kilometre fence in 2014, and the project has so far been regarded a success.
The Newhaven eradication fence will reportedly be nearly two metres high, with a curved top and netting at the base to deter animals seeking to get in or out of the premises.
“There will be two electric wires as well that run on the outside,” Newhaven manager Joe Schofield confirms in the same article.
Land-clearing for the project is already well underway, with nearly 20 kilometres completed and ready for construction.
Restoring so many native animals is expected to lure tourists to the wildlife sanctuary as well.
“In two or three years’ time, it’ll be like stepping back 200 years into the past before Europeans turned up, before feral animals were introduced,” Allard says.
Feral cats (so-called because of their aggressive behaviour) are a constant problem for Australia, with at least 2.1 million feral cats suspected to be roaming the country.