Scientists suggest poisoning bandicoots to prevent cats from eating them

(ORDO NEWS) — Australian scientists are going to implant rabbit bandicoots – small mammals whose numbers are declining – capsules with poison under the skin.

Such implants are harmless to the animals themselves, but they can kill invasive predators like cats if they eat poisoned prey.

Australia is a continent that has long been unconnected with other land masses. As a result, peculiar ecosystems have developed there, in which one-pass mammals and many marsupials are found.

After the Europeans arrived in Australia, Old World animals ended up on the mainland, many of which ran wild and became dangerous invasive species. Among them are cats, foxes and some others.

Aboriginal fauna met with new enemies, for which it was not ready. As a result, now Australia has the fastest rate of extinction of mammals: 31 local species have already disappeared from the face of the Earth.

In the meantime, local scientists are considering a variety of ways to change the situation, sometimes quite radical – including the restoration of populations of the marsupial predator, the recently extinct thylacine. The new issue of ACS Applied Polymer Materials describes another, no less trick.

The authors suggest suturing under the skin of rabbit bandicoots Macrotis sp. (small marsupials, resembling mice with a long stigma) poisoned capsules.

The essence of the idea is to use a poison that will not harm bandicoots (whose numbers are declining), but will kill cats and other invasive predators that eat bandicoots.

Scientists suggest poisoning bandicoots to prevent cats from eating them
They want to poison wild Australian cats

The choice of scientists settled on a substance called “poison 1080” (poison 1080) – sodium fluoroacetate. This is a natural compound synthesized by some Australian plants, so local animals have had time to adapt to it. At the same time, cats quickly die even from a small dose of 1080.

To deliver the insidious poison, special implants were used, implanted under the skin of the victim. Such capsules have shown high inertness and safety for native marsupials, but when they enter the gastrointestinal tract of an invasive predator (in this case, cats), they release their contents.

The process is triggered by the acidic reaction of their gastric juice.

The first trials of this unusual approach are to take place in a pilot area. Part of the natural range of the bandicoots was surrounded by a fence, and several animals living behind it were sewn up with poison, after which they were released back.

Unfortunately, the authors were very unlucky with time: when everything was ready for the experiment, the invasion of mice began – millions of animals filled the area, which are no less invasive for Australia than cats.

With such an abundance of victims, predators, of course, did not pay attention to the poisoned representatives of the native fauna. However, the explosion in the number of rodents has ended, and, probably, soon the prospects of this plan can be assessed in practice.

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