Issue 5
Monday, 02 July 2018
Charles Darwin University
Species such as the Bearded Dragon many be at risk. Photo: Steve Austin
Species such as the Bearded Dragon many be at risk. Photo: Steve Austin

Cats take one million Aussie reptiles a day

Most people know that cats kill many birds and mammals, but they also have impacts on less charismatic species.

Australian cats are killing about 650 million reptiles a year, according to new research published in the journal Wildlife Research.

The findings are based on a study of more than 10,000 cat dietary samples contributed by researchers from across Australia.

Lead researcher from Charles Darwin University Professor John Woinarski said that while previous research demonstrated that cats had a severe impact on Australia’s mammals and birds, this was the first nation-wide assessment of the extent of predation by cats on Australia’s lizards and snakes. 

“On average each feral cat kills 225 reptiles per year, with the highest toll in inland Australia,” Professor Woinarski said.

“Some cats eat staggering numbers of reptiles. We found many examples of single cats bingeing on lizards, with a record of 40 individual lizards in a single cat stomach.

“We collated records of cats killing 250 Australian reptile species including 11 threatened reptile species.”

Professor Woinarski said that while feral cats were not the main problem facing all these species, they were causing decline for some species, such as the threatened great desert skink.

“Comparing our findings with research from overseas, we found that feral cats eat more reptiles in Australia than they do in the USA or Europe,” he said.  “This could be because we have more abundant reptiles in Australia.”

The research was undertaken by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub of the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme.

The Hub is a collaboration of 10 leading Australian universities and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy to undertake research to support the recovery of Australia’s threatened species.