There has been a widespread decline of many native marsupials, with 29 Australian mammals now extinct – the highest rate of mammal extinction in the world. A further 30 per cent of our surviving mammal species are now listed as threatened.


the number of Australian mammals now extinct.

Currently, the most dramatic declines are taking place in northern Australia. Understanding their cause is a focus of Professor Chris Johnson’s research – and it appears that feral felines may be the chief culprits.

“What we are trying to understand first and foremost is what has changed. We have looked at a number of potential culprits or rationales for the declining populations from cane toads, habitat destruction, climate change and disease and we have come to the tentative decision that the responsibility rests with feral cats,” Professor Johnson said.

There have been predators like cats here for more than 100 years, so we knew it wasn’t the cats on their own, but we believe it has been changes in fire management and cattle grazing which have left the terrain more open, creating the perfect hunting ground for these feral cats.

Pest management strategies have so far proved to be less than adequate in treating the problem and new approaches are clearly required as the pace of species decline is accelerating.

“Our pest management techniques have been fairly unsuccessful in managing the issue,” Professor Johnson said.

Simply going out and killing as many feral animals as we can just isn’t sustainable or effective, especially when it comes to feral cats which are far smarter in their avoidance tactics than we are in our trapping or hunting abilities.


the percentage of surviving Australia mammal species are now listed as threatened.

“We don’t want to see any more of our native animals become extinct, and without making changes now we are at an alarming risk of this occurring. We don’t want our children and grandchildren only having the chance to see these creatures stuffed in a museum.”

Professor Johnson’s research has been conducted in partnership with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and is aimed to create direct change that could ensure the environment is more suited to native marsupials and less suited to feral cats

Find out about the University of Tasmania's world-class research here.

Interested in conducting your own research? Apply now to become a research student.