Feral cats in the Australian Outback massacre countless native birds and mammals, many of them endangered.
caught up with ecologist John Read
who has come up with an ingenious way, he hopes, to kill off these invasive hunters without doing collateral damage. He has rigged laser-sighted robots to spray poison onto cats, and only onto cats, with the expectation that they’ll lick their fur and die.
John Read has four of these traps, after seven years of development. And despite the inherent grimness of a machine designed to kill animals—even for the greater good of the ecosystem— the design of the mechanized device is very interesting.
Mostly, it contains a lot of little genius strokes. Main question being, How does a machine determine what is and isn’t a cat? And how can it be sure to erase cats without hurting other animals? Read outfitted the gadgets with four laser rangefinders that scan an animal for its shape and height. A rangefinder positioned to detect a taller animal such as a dingo will shut the box down if triggered. Similarly, there is a laser that looks for skinny legs, to avoid killing a paunchy ol’ wombat. Only something the size and shape of a cat will catch a spray.
But further, the choice of spray is inspired. For starters, it’ll hit a critter’s fur, and because cats are fastidious groomers, they’re going to be most likely to lick at the dose. Read chose a toxin called
(sodium fluoroacetate) which is naturally occurring in some Australian plants, so it shouldn’t be particularly harmful to Australia’s native animals. The downside is that it is relatively slow-acting, not that it is ever fun to be posioned to death.
Ultimately, it seems like a respectable and well-considered solution to an ecological catastrophe, unpleasant though it may be. Also a good reminder to spay and neuter your pets.
This is is a syndicated post. Read the original at www.popularmechanics.com