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Phillip Island trains terrier pup to protect wildlife

Phillip Island trains terrier pup to protect wildlife
April 21, 2020

Marbee, the border terrier pup is being trained to protect wildlife against feral cats on Phillip Island. Although difficult to estimate numbers on Phillip Island, feral cats have the ability to prey on penguins, bandicoots, birds and possums.

Marbee will play a key role in their eradication as the first feral cat detection dog for the Island, and one of only a handful in Australia. Marbee is being trained specifically to detect and track feral cats, and in 12 – 18 months will be field ready. Her trainer, Craig Bester, has been training dogs for 35 years.

As highly adaptable and efficient predators, cats are estimated to prey on more than one million birds a day around the country, and are the cause of 28 of the last 29 mammal extinctions in Australia.

The last physical evidence of any foxes on Phillip Island was detected in August 2015, and the island was declared fox-free two years later. Now the aim is to eliminate feral cats that present the biggest threat to the iconic fauna of Phillip Island through predation and disease.

Last year, 150 feral cats were captured on Phillip Island. Phillip Island Nature Parks Pest Program Manager Stuart Murphy notes “Feral cats differ from domestic cats, despite looking similar. They are usually born in the wild and need to catch their own food which is often our native wildlife.”

Marbee will be joined by another pup in the coming months, and once trained both dogs will be used along with other detection tools such as infra-red cameras to locate feral cats.

Murphy added “once trained these dogs will be used to detect and track feral cats because of their heightened sense of smell. They are our eyes, ears and noses and help us locate areas where feral cats are living.”

The successful management of pest animal species on Phillip Island has coincided with an increase in the number of little penguins, hooded plovers, cape barren geese and short tailed shearwater breeding on Phillip Island. It has also allowed for the introduction onto Phillip Island of the Eastern barred bandicoot, considered extinct in the wild on mainland Victoria.

Image top: Senior Vertebrate Pest Officer – Specialist Dog Handler, Craig Bester with Marbee and Nature Parks Conservation Manager, Jessica McKelson. Image centre of feral cat and above of Marbee

Related Articles

12th December 2019 - Phillip Island Nature Parks introduces exclusive pass for locals

18th September 2019 - Phillip Island marks anniversary release of Eastern Barred Bandicoots

14th August 2019 - Phillip Island Nature Parks pays tribute to the World’s Rangers

29th July 2019 - New Phillip Island Penguin Parade visitor centre opens

27th June 2019 - New visitor centre set to open at Phillip Island’s Penguin Parade

22nd September 2017 - Fox-free Phillip Island to play key role in bandicoot conservation

30th March 2017 - New Chief Executive named for Phillip Island Nature Parks

20th December 2016 - Phillip Island Nature Parks head named new Parks Victoria Chief Executive

13th September 2016 - Phillip Island Nature Parks contribute $498 million to Victoria’s economy

29th July 2016 - Record year for Phillip Island’s penguins

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