Thursday, March 04, 2010

Australians Invent New Ways to Kill Feral Cats

In a 1999 report broadcasted by PM on Australia’s Radio National, it was announced that “Victorian animal scientists have developed the world's first poison pill, designed specifically to kill cats. It's hoped the pill will bring the feral cat population under control. Environmental groups say it will save native fauna and flora and it has the support of at least some animal welfare groups.”

According to the broadcast, the toxic pill has been designed specifically for cats and it will not harm other animals. Gerry Maynes, from the Environment Australia Centre, says “The way it operates is that the chemical affects oxygen transport through the hemoglobin in the blood, and effectively what happens is that the cat goes to sleep and doesn't wake up.” Mr. Maynes also states that the pill is humane and its use is supported by animal welfare groups.

Gerry Maynes says, “…In developing this we've kept groups like the RSPCA Australia, and the Australian and New Zealand Federation of Animals Societies aware of what's happening. Dr Hugh Worth from the RSPCA's had a look at some of the experimental work and his concern as you indicated earlier, that this material not be made freely available to irresponsible people. But, on the basis of the work so far, he is satisfied that it would appear to be a humane control method.”

Just recently, in an article appearing in The Sydney Morning Herald, “New traps that attract cats using sound and light, and then squirt them with poison, will soon be tested in South Australia's Kangaroo Island, the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre said on its website.”

"This is a tunnel that emits a... sound and bright features that attract cats to it," said Professor Steven Lapidge. "It requires them to walk through a tunnel and if they set off certain sensors in a certain configuration, then it detects the shape of the animal. If it is a cat then it will deliver a short spray onto its belly of a toxic substance that puts them to sleep."

According to the article, “The [Invasive Animals Cooperative Research] Centre believes Australia may have more than 18 million feral cats descended from escaped domestic pets, which kill native wildlife and are hard to control using conventional poisons.” Australia also is trying to control feral populations of pigs, rabbits, foxes, and even camels.

ACR is urging our members to contact the Australian Ambassador and tell him to look at the US and European countries for humane methods of controlling feral cat populations. Explain to Mr. Beazley that killing cats is not a long-term solution to such a complex situation. Tell him TNR programs should be utilized instead of using toxic pills and poison traps.

Contact Information:
The Honorable Kim Beazley
Australian Embassy
1601 Massachusetts Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 797-3000
Fax: (202) 797 3168


Anonymous said...

YUCK ! ! ! ! ! !

Sandi said...

I understand that Australia has many challenges with animals competing for limited resources - challenges which are different from other nations. Clearly action is needed. However, poison seems a very dangerous method to achieve results! What happens to the animals who are poisoned? What happens to the scavengers who eat the poisoned animals? Does the poison seep into the soil and eventually groundwater? TNR (trap-neuter-release) requires more active participation in the problem, because people can't just set out poison and leave, but it is a much more responsible, humane, and long-term solution.

Anonymous said...

The big problem with TNR in Australia is that cats have almost no competition as a predator (the closest equivalent is the quoll) and Australian wildlife has no experience defending themselves from such an efficient killer.
Feral cats are generally considered to be one of the biggest killers of native wildlife and recent research has shown that they are now killing quolls to reduce competition.

TNR is definitely preferable to outright killing, but it leaves the native species in just as much danger for the lifespan of every cat released.

One big part of the equation that hasn't been touched yet is that pet cats often aren't neutered - leading to whole generations of cats that aren't wanted and are given to petshops, who then sell them on. On top of that, the cats are rarely checked by a vet at all before sale - I've seen plenty of stores with obviously sick cats in the same enclosure as apparently healthy ones.

If you're writing a letter to the Australian government about cats, I'd highly recommend mentioning some of this as many cat lovers feel strongly about it here.