Hide your kittens, and hide your cats - the Australian government is coming for them. Providing they are feral and you live in Australia, that is. It is no secret that Australia is home to some of the most dangerous animals in the world, but recently the federal government has set its sights on one predator that they claim is the country's biggest threat to the native species: cats. The new threatened species commissioner unveiled his new plan last week that will see over 2 million feral cats eradicated by 2020 in order to stop the rapid increase in the decline of threatened and endangered native species.
This news from Australia comes shortly after the appointment of Gregory Andrews, the country's first threatened species commissioner. After announcing the upcoming war on cats, Andrews put forth a plan for the 24-hour containment requirements for domestic cats before the culling begins to spare owners of semi-feral cats the loss of their pets. The plan would require cats to be kept indoors at all times unless in an enclosed space or on a leash.
This containment plan isn't a new one. In 2005, 12 suburbs in Canberra declared themselves cat-containment areas due to their close proximity to nature reserves. Even across the world in Key Largo, Florida, there is a similar law by the wildlife refuge, but neither plan was followed by a proposed culling.
So why are feral Australian cats becoming such a target? In recent years, Australia has had the largest extinction rate of mammals than any other country and threatened species commissioner Andrews believe cats are to blame.
"Each cat kills between three and 20 native animals a day," Andrews told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "So if you assume four animals a day, that's carnage of 80 million native animals a day."
Small mammals like the hairy-nosed wombats, the northern quoll and a species of owl known as the boobook are all at risk. While the government plans to combat the feral cat problem through trapping, nearly half the budget, $3.6 million, is going towards eradicating them using detector dogs, shooting and poison bait to eliminate the animals. The bait, known as “Curiosity,” will be hidden inside pieces of meat. It contains a toxic compound that stops the flow of oxygen.
Not unexpectedly, this plan has stirred the ire of cat lovers across the globe, but the most surprising response comes from domestic conservationists.
Kelly O'Shanassy, chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation, called the war on cats "commendable;" however, she also states that it fails to address the real killer of native species - habitat loss.
“The strategy … fails to meaningfully address the biggest threat to threatened species and ecological communities — the loss and fragmentation of habitat — either through investment in new protected areas or by safeguarding existing critical places,” she told The Guardian.