It is hard to believe that the cute moggie that sits on your lap, flick its tail and gently purrs is a cold-blooded killer.
Unfortunately the domestic cat is one of nature’s finest hunting machines. The average domestic cat brings home 13 pieces of prey per year, but this represents only 20% of its kill (van Heezik, 2010). This would suggest that each cat kills, on average, 65 pieces of wildlife per year.
Some in New Zealand want to rid the island nation of this killer.
New Zealand – Leading the way
Our New Zealand cousins lead the way on many important environmental and social issues. New Zealand extended the right to vote to women in 1893, but it took a further ten years to extend this right to women in Australian federal elections. New Zealand enacted its carbon emissions trading scheme in 2008, whereas Australia only implemented its Carbon Tax in 2012.
With a bit of luck, New Zealand will again lead the way on another important environmental issue: the reduction (if not elimination) of domestic cats from the country.
Cat Free Nation
You read it right – there is a movement to have New Zealand a predator-free country.
New Zealand is truly blessed with an amazing range of bird life. Millions of years of isolation and an absence of terrestrial mammals allowed unique and exquisite birds to evolve. It is said that when Captain Cook arrived in New Zealand in 1770, he found the birdsong to be deafening.
Unfortunately around 40% of New Zealand’s native birds are already extinct and 37% of the remaining species are endangered. Cats (among other predators) are the main cause of this ecological disaster (Miskelly, 2008).
Responsible cat ownership
Yours is different.. of course. But are you a responsible cat owner?
Responsible cat owners curfew their cats from dusk to dawn (cats are most effective at killing during the night). Cats should also be microchipped and desexed. Most importantly cats should be fitted with bells on their collars to offer an audible alarm to wildlife. These measures reduce the death toll that cats cause by around 50%.
However that’s still 50% too much.
Cats should go
Predictably the proposal of a predator-free New Zealand has raised the hackles of cat-lovers. Economist Gareth Morgan, the man at the centre of this campaign, is unlikely to win many new Facebook friends with his proposal, however his campaign is both grounded in fact and highlights the fact that existing cat controls are largely ineffective.
New Zealand has wildlife worth protecting. If cat owners can’t be responsible for their household killers, than it makes sense that cats should be eradicated. Cats would become the next, and hopefully last animal species to disappear from New Zealand.
It’s an interesting idea.
Visit Gareth’s website for more information: http://garethsworld.com/catstogo/
van Heezik, Y. et al, 2010, Do domestic cats impose an unsustainable harvest on urban bird populations? Biological Conservation 143 121–130
Miskelly, C.M. et al. 2008, Conservation status of New Zealand birds, Notornis, 2008, Vol. 55: 117-135 0029-4470 © The Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Inc.