Implications for Conservation Policy
Could this model work for Australia as a strategy for rescuing endangered mammals as well as some threatened birds (such as the Night Parrot) and lizards?
The current policy of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, along with federal and state agencies, is predator control. Millions of dollars are being spent to fence out, trap, shoot, or poison cats, foxes, and Dingoes, both within and outside of protected areas.
Concerted predator-control efforts can be effective, at least in the short run, but they must be sustained whether budgets are fat or lean. Predator control does not offer a permanent solution or anything resembling natural regulation of the ecosystem. As a policy, it commits society to the nearly impossible task of sustaining predator-control efforts in perpetuity.
The Australian Wildlife Conservancy is building hundreds of kilometers of predator-proof fences to create enclosures where endangered species can prosper in the absence of cats and foxes. But does this approach offer a permanent solution?
No. Enclosures are expensive, must be rigorously maintained at high cost, and are subject to being breached by storm water or fallen trees. And as a largely untested method of species recovery, it is possible (I would venture to say likely) that unexpected problems will arise among enclosed populations.
Even in the most optimistic scenario, mammal populations could be restored to only a tiny fraction -- much less than 1 percent -- of the vast expanse of Australia’s great outback.
A Better Way to Conserve Nature?
Is there a better way? I think there is. Given the many drawbacks of a policy of fenced enclosures and permanent predator control, other strategies should be explored.
A number of prominent Australian biologists are urging Dingo recovery in parts of the north where livestock production is not threatened. I am simply echoing this plea.