Australian desert, the site for an electrified fence

Gigantic electric fence erected to defend against feral cats in Australia

Image credit: Australian Wildlife Conservancy/Wayne Lawler

Construction has begun on a 185km electrified fence in the Australian desert, which will enclose a protected area free from feral cats. The enclosure will be used for the reintroduction of endangered mammals in one of Australia’s most ambitious science projects.

According to Gregory Andrews, the Australian Commissioner for Threatened Species, it will be the biggest predator proof area in the world. The fence aims to protect native animals from feral cats, foxes and rabbits, which threaten other species with extinction.

The electrified fence will use more than 1600km of wire, 500km of netting and 35,000 pickets. It will be 1.8m high, with overhang and skirting to prevent predators climbing over the top or burrowing underneath.

The project will begin with a 45km fence enclosing a 9,450 hectare territory in the Newhaven Sanctuary, outside Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. This area is home to a diminishing population of endangered rock wallabies, which are hunted by foxes and cats.

After construction is complete, rangers will track and kill feral pests within the enclosed zone. Warlpiri locals will play a major role in construction and hunting.

Once the area is free of predators, at least 10 endangered mammalian species will be restored, including rock wallabies, burrowing bettongs and rufous-hare wallabies, which have been extinct in the wild since 1991.

The next stage of the project will extend the enclosure to 70,000 hectares by 2021.

Australia has made extensive use of fences in attempts to control the movement of pests since the nineteenth century, most famously with a 5,614 long “dingo fence” built in 1885 to separate wild dingoes from domestic sheep. The dingo fence still stands today as the world’s longest fence.

The Australian government has committed $5 million to reducing the population of feral cats by nearly 20 per cent. Feral cats are considered the main culprit behind the high rate of mammal extinction in Australia: the highest rate in the world. A single feral cat can kill five to seven animals in a night.

“The science is crystal clear that feral cats are the single biggest threat to our mammals and many of our threatened species will benefit from this new area,” said Mr Andrews.

While the Australian government works to preserve endangered species with their construction of an enormous land barrier, US President Donald Trump is preparing to select a design for his proposed wall along the US-Mexico border, which will prove a far more costly and controversial challenge for engineers.

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