This paper reviews the impacts of three species of introduced mammalian predators on native fauna in Australia. The feral cat Felis catus, introduced over 200 years ago, is linked with early continental extinctions of up to seven species of mammals, regional and insular extinctions of many more species of mammals and birds, and the failure of management programs attempting to reintroduce threatened native species to parts of their former ranges. Evidence for cat-impact is largely historical and circumstantial, but supported by observations that afflicted native species are, or were, small (<200 g) occupants of open habitat and hence likely to be especially vulnerable to cat predation. The red fox Vulpes vulpes was released successfully in 1871. Its subsequent spread into all except parts of arid and tropical Australia coincided with local and regional declines of medium-sized (450 – 5,000 g) mammals, birds and chelid tortoises. The fox has also created recent failures of many management attempts to recover threatened native species. Unequivocal demonstration of fox-impact has been obtained in removal experiments, especially on rock-wallabies Petrogale lateralis. The dingo Canis lupus dingo, introduced 3,500–4,000 years ago, probably caused the extinction of the thylacine Thylacinus cynocephalus and Tasmanian devil Sarcophilus harrisii on mainland Australia. It effectively suppresses extant populations of large mammals, such as kangaroos, and emus, over large areas. Impacts of all three predators are wrought primarily by direct predation. Negative impacts appear to be increased in spatially fragmented forests where native species are restricted to remnant vegetation, and in arid landscapes when native species become restricted temporarily to scattered oases during drought. Alternative prey, especially rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus, enhance negative impacts on native species by supporting large populations of the predators. It is concluded that feral cats and especially foxes have major negative impacts on certain small and medium-sized native vertebrates in Australia, whereas dingoes have major negative impacts on large species. Dingoes could have positive effects on smaller native species if they significantly suppress populations of foxes and cats. Further quantification of both the direct and indirect impacts of the three predators on native fauna is needed, and should be obtained from experimental field studies.
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Vol. 2 • No. 3