Department of State Development

20 Nov 2014 Industry

Local innovation to help protect endangered native animals

A product to protect endangered wildlife such as bilbies, wallabies and quolls by humanely controlling feral cats has won an Eyre Peninsula innovator a $50,000 grant.

Environmental consulting company Ecological Horizons, run by ecologist Dr John Read and his wife Dr Katherine Moseby, have committed $25,000 of additional funds for engineering company Applidyne Australia to further develop the product, known as a grooming trap.

Manufacturing and Innovation Minister Susan Close said the Innovation Voucher program, which funded the grant, assists local innovators to further develop their ideas.

“Vouchers are awarded to innovators to help businesses lacking the necessary resources to engage researchers and developers to solve technical problems,” Dr Close said.

Ecological Horizons Director Dr John Read said the new tool for managing feral cats is an innovative solution to an ecological problem.

“This highly specific, humane and automated product uses an array of sensors to distinguish the body shape of feral cats from other animals, such as wallabies, sheep and dogs,” Dr Read said.

“The Innovation Voucher has enabled me to kick start the development program and engage specialist design engineers Applidyne.

“Once developed the grooming trap will retail for between $500 and $900, and we hope to also have the options to lease the product.”

Successful grooming traps will provide the capacity to control feral cats that threaten species such as quolls at Wilpena Pound and offer a control technique for Kangaroo Island farmers who suffer stock losses from an infection caused by a parasite known as sarcospiridosis.

“Cats are hunters and seldom eat poison baits when live food is available, so we are working to create a prototype that sprays a measured dose of toxin onto the cat’s fur, which it consumes while grooming itself and causes it to die peacefully in its sleep,” Dr Read said.

“A further advantage of this technique is that the poison has a reversal agent in case a wandering pet gets sprayed.”

The Department for Environment, Water and Natural Resources is contributing to the research with trials planned for the Venus Bay Conservation Park where feral cats threaten bilby and woylie populations.

“We also intend to trial the prototype at Ecological Horizons’ 26,000 hectare property on the Eyre Peninsula, so it can be tested and refined,” Dr Read said.

“Wildlife sanctuaries, councils, mining companies and private land owners are among organisations that have already expressed interest in the product.”

Applidyne Australia Technical Director Paul van de Loo said the design, commercialisation and distribution of the product will provide opportunities for advanced manufacturing in South Australia.

The Innovation Voucher Program is one of several programs being delivered as part of the State Government's manufacturing strategy, Manufacturing Works.

For guidelines and application information visit www.dmitre.sa.gov.au/manufacturing_works/programs_and_initiatives/innovation_voucher_program