Vil­lage Mulls Ban­ning Cats

The Borneo Post - Good English - - Front Page - By Tay­lor Telford

FIRST, New Zealand de­clared war on dirty-clawed preda­tors - stoats, rats, weasels - and there was lit­tle to be missed. But as the fight comes to the kit­ties, some own­ers are paws-sitively out­raged.

New Zealand’s ef­forts to pro­tect its most rar­efied crea­tures are turn­ing to a mea­sure that has rat­tled many cat own­ers: ban­ning fe­line friends. The south­ern coastal vil­lage of Omaui - in­hab­ited by 35 peo­ple, seven or eight cher­ished cats and a slew of en­dan­gered species, ac­cord­ing to re­port­ing from the New York Times - is con­sid­er­ing a “pest plan” to de­fend New Zealand’s vul­ner­a­ble na­tive wildlife. The plan would pro­hibit do­mes­tic cats, ar­gu­ing own­ers should be will­ing to put the is­land’s ex­tra­or­di­nary bio­di­ver­sity over their furry com­pan­ions.

“Of­ten peo­ple have a choice. Is it the na­tive birds and wildlife, like the lizards, in­sects they want to thrive? Or is it the cat?” Con­ser­va­tion Min­is­ter Eu­ge­nie Sage, com­ment­ing on sim­i­lar cat bans, told New­shub.

In­tro­duced this month, the Omaui pro­posal - which tar­gets 72 preda­tors, in­clud­ing do­mes­tic cats - would re­quire cur­rent cat-izens to be neutered, mi­cro-chipped and reg­is­tered within six months. Af­ter a cat dies, its owner would not be al­lowed to get an­other. Should res­i­dents re­sist, the gov­ern­ment would force them to ex­ile their cats - or seize them as a last re­sort.

Op­po­nents of the plan say that rid­ding the vil­lage of a few fe­lines won’t pro­tect the en­dan­gered species, but will leave ver­min to run ram­pant.

“It doesn’t mat­ter how many (ro­dents) I trap and poi­son, more just keep com­ing in from the bush,” Nico Jarvis, an Omaui res­i­dent who owns three cats and is start­ing a pe­ti­tion to com­bat the ban, told the Otago Daily Times. “If I can­not have a cat, it al­most be­comes un­healthy for me to live in my house.”

Jarvis ac­cused En­vi­ron­ment South­land, the re­gional coun­cil be­hind the pest plan, of be­hav­ing “like a po­lice state” by try­ing to pro­hibit Omaui’s do­mes­tic cats, and said the ma­jor­ity of the com­mu­nity thinks the ben­e­fit to lo­cal wildlife would be neg­li­gi­ble. But Jeremy Collins, the Omaui Land­care Char­i­ta­ble Trust chair­man who pushed for the ban, said he’s seen na­tive birds “ripped to pieces” on his front lawn, the Otago Daily Times re­ported.

“Na­tive wildlife is dis­ap­pear­ing rapidly around the coun­try and places like this, where peo­ple still live and en­joy and hear the bird­song, are prob­a­bly few and far be­tween,’’ Collins told the Otago Daily Times.

New Zealand has the high­est pro­por­tion of en­dan­gered species in the world, as it is home to more than 4,000-odd threat­ened crea­tures and crit­ters, rang­ing from the small Maui and Hec­tor’s dol­phins to the fluffy, flight­less Kiwi, the na­tion’s icon. En­vi­ron­men­tal ex­perts say New Zealand’s rare, na­tive species have been ter­ror­ized by in­vaders that ar­rived along­side the coun­try’s set­tlers 200 years ago.

“The best way to de­scribe it is New Zealand is the ‘land with­out teeth.’ If it has four legs, fur and teeth, it never evolved here,” en­dan­gered species am­bas­sador Ni­cola Toki told New­shub.

In 2016, the coun­try pledged to wipe out all in­va­sive mam­mals by 2050, as it ded­i­cated NZ$2.3 bil­lion to its “Preda­tor Free New Zealand” plan. The gov­ern­ment says these crea­tures kill 25 mil­lion na­tive birds ev­ery year, spread dis­eases and cost the New Zealand econ­omy and pri­mary sec­tor NZ$3.3 bil­lion a year. The breadth of the na­tion’s ex­ten­sive con­ser­va­tion ef­forts have been com­pared with the Apollo space pro­gramme.

Do­mes­tic cats, how­ever, weren’t in­cluded on the 2016 hit list, per­haps be­cause of New Zealand’s sin­gu­lar fe­line in­fat­u­a­tion. Ac­cord­ing to some es­ti­mates, New Zealand has more cats per capita than any coun­try in the world. A former con­ser­va­tion min­is­ter pro­posed a na­tion­wide cat cap - two per house­hold, but sup­port fell short.

The tar­get­ing of cats has been brew­ing for years. Famed fe­line an­tag­o­nist Gareth Mor­gan, an econ­o­mist and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, has called cats “friendly neigh­bour­hood se­rial killers,” and has pushed for a to­tal wipe­out of the crea­tures - a move­ment he ti­tled “Cats To Go” - since 2013. The group’s web­site once fea­tured a pho­to­shopped pic­ture of a de­mon kit­ten, with red eyes and devil horns, ac­cord­ing to re­port­ing from the New Zealand Her­ald. It also re­ferred to cats as “the only true sadists of the an­i­mal world.”Wash­ing­ton Post.

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