Feral cats could wipe out the last remaining members of an endangered Australian species, already on the brink of extinction following the Black Summer bushfires.
There are only about 500 Kangaroo Island dunnarts thought to be left alive on the eponymous isle off the South Australian coast.
Kangaroo Island was ravaged by the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020, and about 98 per cent of the little marsupial's habitat was badly burnt.
The authors of a new study, published in Scientific Reports, set out to determine whether the island's feral cat population could prove a factor in the dunnart's demise.
After examining the stomach contents of 86 feral cats captured between February and August 2020 in conservation areas on the island, the researchers found dunnart remain inside 8.1 per cent of them.
The study offers the first confirmation that feral cats do prey on the Kangaroo Island dunnart, and the authors suggested cats could be "efficient hunters".
"The combined pressures of a small, isolated population, natural disasters like bushfires, and predation from introduced predators such as feral cats could lead to the extinction of this vulnerable species," the authors said in a release.
"They highlight the need to maintain control of feral cat populations in areas home to threatened species."