The cats eating Australia.

Cats are eating Australia alive. Cats kill millions of native animals every year and one region has introduced a plan that may well save many adorable Aussie animals from death or extinction.

Cats are estimated to kill about 1.5 billion native animals per annum in Australia. This destruction is the work of domestic cats, stray cats and feral cats. All of these cats are derived from pet cats, as feline species have never been native to Australia.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 1994 only 26% of domestic cats were confined both during the day and night. This means 74% of cats where roaming happily, hunting and destroying native wildlife. In the same year, 42,126 cats were dumped on the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Only 3% of the cats were reclaimed and 74% were put down.

Feral cats threaten at least 124 Australian species which are in danger of extinction, and cats are a major reason that Australia has the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world – not per capita – outright.

Chantel Benbow is an ecologist, and some would say a hypocrite. She owns a cat and lets it roam free at night around the streets of inner Sydney. Her cat does wear a bib developed by Murdoch University, and utilised widely in the Eurobodalla Council region on the NSW far south coast. The bib claims to distract the cat from the prey, and to stop 81 per cent of cats from catching birds, 45 per cent of cats from catching mammals, and 33 per cent of cats from catching lizards and amphibians.

Not 100%.

That said, Benbow still advises:

“If you want to have a pet cat, keep it indoors because they are hunters. They are beautiful, they are cute and fluffy but they will kill something.”

This is why the Australian Capital Territory has introduced a policy that could save thousands of native Australian animals.

The policy requires all new pet cats obtained after July 1, 2022 to be contained indoors or in a cat run. It does, however, allow cats acquired before July 1, 2022 to roam free if their owners do not live in a new Canberra suburb. These cats can happily kill native wildlife every day and night. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

Another law change allows cat owners to walk their cat on a lead, which is actually prohibited, not just odd. This applies to 17 designated cat containment suburbs in the territory. Cats will also have to be registered, just like dogs, under the new law.

The maximum penalty for breaching the law is $1,600.

Politicians announcing the new law boasted that the ACT is a leader in cat containment.

“The ACT government wants to minimise the impacts of domestic cats on native wildlife by reducing the number of feral, unowned and semi-owned cats through more de-sexing, improved domestic cat welfare and management practices, better ways to identify lost cats and reunite them with their owners,” Minister for the Environment Rebecca Vassarotti said.

“Every year, free-roaming but owned Canberra cats are estimated to prey on 61,000 native birds, 2,000 native mammals, 30,000 native reptiles and 6,000 native frogs.

The ACT is not the first region to introduce some form of ban on pet cats in order to save Australia’s wildlife.

The municipality of Knox in Victoria has introduced a 24-hour cat curfew on all domestic cats to come into effect on October 1, 2021. Cats must be confined to their owner’s property at all times and the new law was established for one primary reason; to protect native wildlife.

Owners face fines for failure to comply, and the rationale for the law also sites general nuisance and safety for cats. However, it is not difficult to read between the lines of the government document and determine the primary motivation for the move.

The council in Melbourne states that there are “…currently over 6,500 cats registered with Council.” Even if each cat kills only one native animal per day, that municipality will lose 6,500 native animals every day. In the space of a year…

The law should have been introduced long ago. It should be nationwide policy.

The municipality of Knox trialled the curfew in 2020 and more than 86% of residents are said to have supported the continuation of the program, including cat owners themselves.

Opponents or critics of the curfew might also argue that it is not necessary because they put a bell on their cat’s collar to alert wildlife. Their cats then roam guilt-free. Blue Mountains City Council, which administers a large area surrounded by national park, claims:

“Bells on collars don’t always work. Cats with bells can learn to stalk prey silently,” and

“…native animals don’t associate the sound of bells with danger.”

Other Australian communities have also introduce such a ban. Mount Barker near Adelaide implemented a similar law in 2019. The law proposed penalties for cats found roaming freely between 8pm and 7am, and a limit of two cats per property. The community lobbied for the law after becoming sick of domestic cats defecating on people’s properties, fighting in gardens and killing wildlife.

Similar laws aimed at protecting wildlife have also been trialled or implemented in Gawler, Adelaide Hills, Marion and Campbelltown in South Australia. The law in Gawler included a provision to ‘seize, detain and destroy’ any cat caught roaming within its boundaries if the animal isn’t claimed by its owner within three days.

Various forms of cat curfews are also being considered in locations such as Yarra Range Council in Victoria and Wollondilly Council in Sydney. Interestingly, a councillor from Wollondilly Council, Simon Landow, was quoted as saying that the plan had been met with great support, but that the rules had no teeth unless the state government enacted similar legislation.

Mount Barker, Knox and many of the regions mentioned above feature residential areas which adjoin an area of bushland or open space, where native wildlife can still be found. If that wildlife is to survive, a cat curfew must be implemented across the nation.

Image: david_g_bevan_writer

Aussie sports shooters to take on new role after Olympics.

Australia’s best sports shooters will shoot and kill invasive animals upon returning from Tokyo 2020 under a new plan devised by Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley.

The nation’s elite shooters will travel the country hunting and killing the invasive animals which are destroying Australia’s natural environment and its native wildlife. Australia has the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world, and feral animals contribute greatly to this destruction. The estimated cost of invasive species was $AUD13.6 billion in the 2011-12 financial year alone.

“Australia’s best sports shooters will use their skill and experience to hunt and kill invasive animal species,” announced Ley.

“They will begin this important work upon the conclusion of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, and will continue until every feral animal is eliminated from Australia. We must eliminate invasive species from our land in order to protect the ecology of this country.”

Ley believes the initiative presents numerous benefits. Shooters will help rid Australia of destructive species while honing their skills in a realistic environment shooting at moving targets, enabling them to hopefully win more medals at the next games.

“This will be especially beneficial to ‘Shotgun’ competitors, who must hit a moving target during competition, as well as exponents of Rifle and Pistol disciplines. We are also confident that it will provide a competitive edge for our shooters over shooters from other nations at Paris 2024.”

Ley also explained that Olympic shooters are suitable for this task because they are likely to return to Australia with COVID-19, and spreading this disease among the animal population may be more efficient than shooting,

“And it’s much cheaper than bullets.”

Under the plan, shooters will be required to reach a quota of animals killed in order to receive continued sports funding from the Australian taxpayer.

“We believe this will incentivise shooters to carry out their task effectively. We also expect Bridget McKenzie to join the shooters on their hunt, because she knows all about sports funding and she loves to shoot.”

Australia’s natural environment is under great threat from a range of invasive species such as cats, foxes, deer, mice, rats, myna birds, camels, horses, pigs, dogs, rabbits, goats, donkeys, buffalo, carp and cane toads. All of these animals can be shot, including the much-maligned cane toad.

“Cane toads are hard to shoot, but when you hit one, gosh it feels good. Watching the toxins spurt out of its guts is why I love shooting,” explained one Aussie shooter.

Another benefit of assigning this role to sports shooters is that many invasive species are found on private land, and many shooters own this land, so it will be easier to gain access to areas where feral animals dominate.

Ley was excited at the proposed outcomes of this program, and the contribution that some of our Olympic competitors can make to the country.

“Eliminating feral animals from our continent is far more valuable to the country than an Olympic gold medal.”

Image: http://www.commonwealthgames.com.au