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War in the wild: Australian conservationists battle feral cats

Sanctuaries helping to prevent extinction of continent's native fauna

"The biggest conservation issue" for Australia, a female feral cat is found at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary (Photo by C. Thomas, AWC)

SYDNEY -- It is a daily death toll of staggering proportions: A million birds, a million reptiles and a million small mammals are killed every 24 hours in Australia by predators. The prime culprits are feral cats and foxes, and their unrelenting pursuit of native fauna means that Australia's mammal extinction rate is the highest in the world.

"Feral cats represent the biggest conservation issue for the country right now," Atticus Fleming, chief executive of the wildlife organization Australian Wildlife Conservancy, told the Nikkei Asian Review. "Foxes are important too, but they are more readily controlled by baiting. A fox will take dead prey. A cat doesn't -- its specialty is hunting live prey."

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