Number one public enemy in Australia? Wild cats. By 2020, the Australian government wants to kill two million feral cats. In some places, there is even a prize on a cat’s head. “Terrible”, it sounds at animal rights organizations.
What’s the problem? Since the first cat – presumably in the 17th century – set foot on Australian soil, the number of cats there has exploded. And even though wild cats belong to the same species as regular domestic cats, they live in the wild and therefore have to hunt to survive. And they do that with verve.
Since their introduction by European settlers, according to estimates, cats have already made about 20 mammal species extinct. And that is especially a big deal for island nation Australia, where 80 percent of mammals and 45 percent of wild birds are found nowhere else in the world. Cats are by far the biggest threat to Australian native species. Every day, they kill more than a million native birds and about 1.7 reptiles all over the country, a spokesman for the Department of the Environment told CNN. Other species threatened by cats include the vulnerable rabbit rat and the pouch.
In the first 12 months after Australia launched the eradication plan in 2015, an estimated 211,560 wild cats were killed. More recent figures are not immediately available, but Australia is still continuing. Recently, for example, experiments have been conducted with deadly sausages that are dropped in the Outback. No, the war on the cat is not over yet.
“We don’t just exterminate the cats,” defends Gregory Andrews, National Commissioner for Endangered Species. “It’s not that we hate them. But we have to make choices to save the animals that we love so much and that define us as a nation.”
The government’s plan is under attack. “It is true that feral cats pose a great risk to native species,” responds Tim Doherty, a conservation biologist at Deakin University. “But the number of feral cats is sometimes overestimated and targets cannot be based on shaky science.” The biologist also points out that killing a cat does not necessarily save the life of a mammal or a bird; live in an area where those animals are threatened. “It must be focused and not random.”
Doherty also suspects that the wild cats are used as a derivation of more politically sensitive issues such as habitat loss caused by urban expansion, logging, and mining.
The fact that in the northeastern state of Queensland, premiums are even being offered to anyone who submits a scalp of any wild cats, which is simply “horrible” for the animal rights organization PETA. British singer Morrissey and French actress Brigitte Bardot, among others, are also familiar faces of the no camp. “Animal genocide”, Bardot called the practice earlier.