Australian conservationists are using robots to seek out and kill feral cats allegedly decimating the country’s endangered animal populations.
Grooming traps are being placed in strategic areas across the Australian outback to target and eradicate the country’s nearly 20 million stray felines.
The Bush Heritage Australia, an Australian biodiversity group, and the South Australian government are bankrolling the $450,000 cost associated with the “grooming machines.” Bush Heritage intends on using them to protect Australia’s endangered night parrot population.
John Read, the ecologist who created the cat-killing invention, said the traps use a cat’s natural inclination to lick and clean itself as a lethal weapon.
Cats prefer to hunt for their food, he added, which makes it difficult to lure them into kill box. So instead of attempting to lay bait for the wild animals, the machines simply spray poison on them as they walk past.
The kill machines force the cats to lick themselves to death.
The robots’ logistics involve a complicated series of radar detectors and distress signals. The machine will not activate, for example, if its radar detects an animal like a koala bear or some other native species passing nearby, as those animals are typically taller than cats.
Likewise, belly-dragging animals like wombats won’t trigger the machine’s rangefinder either, because the robot needs to be able see between the cat’s legs. It also measures an animal’s length to determine whether it is a cat or some other Australian critter.
In addition, the device sounds a signal that mimics the sound of a cat’s prey.
Read switched on the robots last week, and placed them in Australia’s Pullen Pullen reserve, as well as in Venus Bay and Wilpena in South Australia.
“The three trial locations are all part of the same trial to test and optimise the traps before we will hopefully redesign and manufacture 50 or more traps for a bigger trial at a wider range of sites,” Read told reporters.
Stray cats are one of the biggest threats to Australia’s endangered animals, according to Greg Hunt, the country’s environmental minister.
It’s believed that the country’s 20 million feral cats are laying siege to the native animal population, with one cat responsible for killing more than five animals a day.
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