The Curiosity® bait for feral cats has been a long-term $5.9 million project to develop a humane, broad-scale toxic bait to control feral cats in conservation areas.
Interior of a Curiosity bait showing a toxic pellet
The Curiosity® bait for feral cats comprises a small meat-based sausage containing a small hard plastic pellet encapsulating a humane toxin. Cats do not have molar teeth and tend to chew their food less so they may swallow portions of the sausage including the pellet. Most Australian native animals nibble and chew their food and are likely to reject the pellet. The pellet is designed to dissolve in the cat’s stomach and deliver a rapid dose of the toxin.
The Curiosity® bait for feral cats uses a new humane toxin called para-aminopropiophenone, or PAPP, which is considered best-practice world-wide. In brief, the toxicant, PAPP, converts the animal’s red blood cells to a form that cannot carry oxygen, causing death through oxygen starvation to the brain and other vital organs. It is considered to be humane and death takes minutes to hours. The RSPCA have indicated that PAPP is a clear improvement in humaneness over previous toxins. The mode of action means that secondary poisoning of any other animals from consuming a carcass of a cat that ate a Curiosity® bait containing PAPP is much less likely than when using previously employed toxins.
Commercialisation of Curiosity® bait for feral cats
Curiosity baits are available from Tréidlia Biovet under a licencing arrangement with the Department. To make enquiries about the bait or place an order please contact Tréidlia Biovet by email Curiosity@feralcat.com.au or phone 02 9674 1488.
In some states and territories land managers will need to arrange supply via their Local Land Services, Natural Resource Management Board or equivalent.
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority registration
The Curiosity® bait for feral cats has been registered by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) as an agricultural chemical product for vertebrate pest control.
The APVMA conducted a rigorous assessment to ensure the product can be supplied or sold and used safely according to the label directions. This includes ensuring efficacy, occupational health and safety, environmental safety for native species, soils and water, and restrictions to minimise the risk to the public.
It has been classified as a schedule 7 toxin and sales will be restricted. This means that Curiosity® baits will only be sold to, and used by, appropriately trained and authorised persons. State and territory government authorities may also apply additional restrictions.
Non-target species assessment
A desktop assessment has been conducted to assess the risks to non-target vertebrate species in Australia from Curiosity® bait for feral cats.
To assist practitioners assessing their specific non-target species risks after reading and understanding the process in the linked paper.
Standard Operating Procedure for Baiting of feral cats with para-aminopropiophenone (PAPP)
This Standard Operating Procedure lays out a guide for a uniform approach to the baiting of feral cats with PAPP. It details the procedures involved. This standard operating procedure (SOP) is a guide only; it does not replace or override the legislation that applies in the relevant state or territory jurisdiction. The SOP should only be used subject to the applicable legal requirements (including WH&S) operating in the relevant jurisdiction.
Testing of Curiosity®
To ensure that Curiosity® baits are effective in reducing feral cat numbers in the field, various tests including laboratory, cage trials and field trials in different parts of Australia were conducted. The final bait composition has achieved efficiency rates (reduction in feral cat numbers) of up to 80 per cent in ideal field conditions. In the controlled situation of pen trials on feral cats testing demonstrated 97% of the cats voluntarily consuming a Curiosity® bait died.
Optimal conditions are specified on the packaging to maximise outcomes for land managers, including using the bait at times when feral cats are food stressed, such as in winter.
Field efficacy trial reports
- Field efficacy testing Curiosity® bait for feral cats Roxby Downs, South Australia, 2014
- Field efficacy testing Curiosity® bait for feral cats Karijini National Park, Western Australia, 2013
- Field efficacy testing Curiosity® bait for feral cats Flinders Ranges, South Australia, 2012
- Field efficacy testing Curiosity® bait for feral cats Wilsons Promontory, Victoria 2012
- Field efficacy testing Curiosity® bait for feral cats Cape Arid, Western Australia, 2011
- Field efficacy testing Curiosity® bait for feral cats Christmas Island, 2010
- Field efficacy testing Curiosity® bait for feral cats Dirk Hartog Island, Western Australia, 2009
Other trials using Curiosity® bait for feral cats
Use in the eradication of feral cats from Tasman Island, Tasmania in 2010. The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service has produced a video on the eradication of feral cats from Tasman Island - Tasman Island Natural Values Restoration Project - removing feral cats.
Field efficacy testing Curiosity® bait for feral cats French Island, Victoria 2008. There is no stand-alone report of this field efficacy study. In summary, a 60 km2 component of French Island National park was baited in Autumn 2008. 75 per cent of the feral cats fitted with transmitter collars died as a result of bait consumption.
Hisstory® bait for feral cats
The Hisstory® bait for feral cats has been developed to complement the Curiosity® bait for feral cats. Hisstory® baits are similar to Curiosity® baits in being a small meat-based sausage containing a small hard plastic pellet encapsulating the toxin. In this case the toxin is sodium fluroacetate or 1080.
Like the Curiosity® bait, minimising the hazard to wildlife species is based on most Australian animals nibbling and chewing their food and being likely to reject the pellet. However, there are a few animals that eat their food whole and will eat a bait and pellet. Of those animals, goannas are highly susceptible to Curiosity’s PAPP toxin — this potential hazard to goannas can be mitigated in southern Australia by limiting baiting to cooler months when goannas are in torpor. Further north, the potential hazard is mitigated by using the 1080 toxin. While goannas are susceptible to the PAPP toxin, they are tolerant to a cat-sized dose of 1080 toxin. This means Hisstory® baits will be suitable for sites in northern Australia where goannas are typically active all year round.
Testing of Hisstory®
Testing of the Hisstory® bait is necessary to ensure the bait is effective on feral cats and ensure the risks to native species is minimised as we expect.
A number of trials, both in captive and open situations, will be conducted.
Once the Department is satisfied with the testing, a registration will be sought from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority as an agricultural chemical product for vertebrate pest control.