Australia is trying to save the mountain pygmy-possum, the brush-tailed rabbit-rat, and nearly 40 other mammal and bird species, but to do so, it wants to exterminate about 2 million cats—the feral variety. Feral cats are in the Aussie government's sights under its "Threatened Species Strategy," a new initiative unveiled yesterday at the Melbourne Zoo by Greg Hunt. As the country's federal environment minister, Hunt says the plan will help "halt and reverse the threats to our magnificent endemic species," reports the Guardian. The strategy notes that feral cats have played a huge role in the extinction of 27 mammals and are threatening another 142 species. As such, the government wants the cats "humanely" eliminated by the year 2020.
Some $750,000 AUD will be spent to build 10 feral-cat-free habitat enclosures, and the cats—which will henceforth be listed as a "harmful pest"—will be targeted through "baiting, shooting, and poisoning," per the Guardian. "We are drawing a line in the sand today which says 'on our watch, in our time, no more species extinction,'" Hunt says. But critics note that only $6.6 million AUD has been allotted to the entire strategy, with the Guardian suggesting that private donations may be needed. The head of the Australian Conservation Foundation tells the paper that while the plan's main points are "commendable," the lack of funding is definitely an issue, as well as the fact that the strategy doesn't "meaningfully address the biggest threat to threatened species and ecological communities—the loss and fragmentation of habitat."