Engineering nature's defences to save native animals

By University of South Australia

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The official campaign has now ended but we are still accepting donations through this website while we finalise a number of other fundraising initiatives for this project.

Thank you to everyone who has supported our campaign by donating and spreading the word. Each dollar raised allows us to help save more precious native animals.

**Hear us on ABC The World Today - 12/04/17**

The ABC's Caroline Winter featured our new approach to controlling feral cats on The World Today. You can listen to the interview here.


We have just launched two new perks just in time for Easter, celebrating our efforts which we hope will also help Australia's Bilbies.

If you would like to give your loved ones an Easter gift that is less hard-hitting on the waist-line, please consider making a donation before Wednesday 13th April to ensure you receive your emailed perk before Easter.

**NEWSFLASH - 4/4/17**

We are sincerely grateful for the interest and support we have received for this project from across the country.

Arid Recovery have put their hands up to be one of the first to trial our new capsules in the hope that they can introduce some of their burrowing bettongs (photo courtesy of Arid Recovery) and bilbies outside of their feral proof reserve fence.

“The holy grail of wildlife conservation is the successful rewilding of animals because fences can’t be maintained forever,” said Dr Katherine Tuft, General Manager of Arid Recovery in Roxby Downs. “We need to find new ways to ensure these incredible little ecosystem engineers can thrive and survive in the wild because their ability to rejuvenate the natural environment is rather amazing.”

To read about Arid Recovery's projects and the challenges they face because of feral cats please click here. Please note this link will redirect you to another page, but you can use your 'back' button in your browser to return.

Help us save native Australian animals from extinction

I am Dr Anton Blencowe, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at the University of South Australia. Together, with a group of conservationists and scientists, we are working to safeguard the survival of native Australian animals.

Sadly, we have seen a significant decline of native animals in Australia since European settlement, largely due to the introduction of foreign animals - particularly feral cats.

We are asking for your help to support an exciting and innovative new technology - the 'population-protecting implant' - that has the potential to help save Australian native animals from extinction and assist with protecting vulnerable fauna re-introduction programs.

Incredibly, just one feral cat can kill hundreds of native Australian animals throughout its life-span

Experts and the federal government have recognised that the feral cat population needs to be significantly reduced to tackle the threat they present to the natural ecosystem. More specifically, recent research has shown that individual cats can target reintroduced or rare animals and cause catastrophic impact.

We believe we have a solution to control the threat from feral cats

We have a new approach to feral cat control that could help to safeguard threatened species such as quolls, quokkas, wallabies, bettongs, bandicoots and many more vulnerable native species. It is designed to provide a more targeted method of controlling feral cats and foxes that reduces potential exposure of non-target animals to toxins.

Dr David Peacock approached me with encouraging results that he discovered as part of his PhD. He realised that a solution to the feral cat problem may lie in the seeds from native poisonous plants (Gastrolobium) found in south-west Western Australia. He learnt that Australian animals that feed on these plants have a high tolerance to the poison and are not affected by it, but the animals themselves can then become poisonous to feral cats that prey on them. This presents an exciting opportunity for protecting native animal populations.

Using the natural poison found in these plants, we have created an inert implant - the size of a grain of rice - that can be injected under the skin of a native animal. The implant is coated in such a way that it remains harmless to the animal for the duration of its life and is only activated (releases the poison) if the animal is eaten by a feral cat - such as the ones causing significant problems throughout Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere.

If the animal is eaten by a larger native predator, then the small amount of natural poison would not be enough to harm the larger predator because of their much higher tolerances.

If the animal lives out its life and dies naturally, as we hope it will, the capsule will safely reintegrate into the environment.

Effectively, each native animal that has been implanted acts as a Trojan to improve the chances of survival of the remaining native animal population. For every native animal that is unfortunately attacked and eaten by a cat, hundreds of other native animals will be saved thanks to the implant.

Research indicates targeting the cats doing the killing is critical, though often very difficult to achieve. Therefore the implants should make the difference between success and failure for many fauna re-introduction programs and vulnerable populations.

We need your help to expand our project

We were fortunate to be able to purchase a new spray coater machine thanks to a generous contribution from The Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered Species (FAME) which will enable consistent manufacture of the capsules.

We are now seeking funding for research hours to allow us to manufacture the capsules at a high volume for preliminary safety testing in the lab and accelerate the project towards further testing and field trials in the wild.

We hope that if the trials are successful we will then be able to go on to work in collaboration with a range of researchers and experts to assist re-introduction programs currently underway throughout Australia such as the Western Quoll and Brushtail Possum re-introduction to the Flinders Ranges.

Image credit: Ecological Horizons Pty Ltd

Together we can help save our precious native animals from extinction from introduced predators.

Your dollar will go further! The University of South Australia has committed to boosting all funds raised by an extra 20% - but only if we reach our target. So please get behind this campaign and share with your friends.

The University of South Australia is a deductable gift recipient. All donations over $2 are tax deductible depending on your personal circumstances.

To find out more about UniSA's crowdfunding campaign, visit: and to join the conversation use #unisacrowdfunding.

Who we are

Dr Anton Blencowe, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at University of South Australia, leads a research team in the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences that have developed the novel native-poison implant.

Dr David Peacock is a passionate conservation biologist with expertise in pest animals, ecology, conservation biology and biodiversity.

We work in collaboration with Dr Katherine Moseby and Dr John Read at Ecological Horizons Pty Ltd, Dr Todd McWhorter at the University of Adelaide, Biosecurity SA, the Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR), and other leading conservation and environmental scientists.

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University of South Australia