New Zealand Town Weighs Phasing Out Cats to Preserve Species

New Zealand is full of stunning vistas and beautiful locales. Most of its natural environments have been preserved and untouched, which means that wildlife that’s native to the island nation have plenty of places to live in and thrive. There’s one coastal town on the South Island of New Zealand that’s come across a problem that’s threatening the survival of many native wildlife.

Omaui is as simple as it gets. It’s a small town with just 35 people. But this small town happens to be overflowing with rare bird species. In addition, the same town has another set of residents—cats. There are only maybe seven or eight cats in this small town, but that population is literally eating away the species of birds slowly and surely. Residents are divided about how to handle the situation, but a solution has definitely been presented.

The new proposal is to phase out the existing cats in the area by imposing a sunset clause. The clause stipulates that once a cat passes away, the owner will not be allowed to get another cat as a replacement. The policy still needs approval, especially since it has garnered quite a negative response from many cat supporters in the town. But once this policy is approved, all cats must be registered, microchipped, and neutered through the regional council.

Those who are currently against the policy are arguing that if the cats were phased out, there’s a large possibility that rodents will start breeding out of control. Cats are natural hunters, and they prevent infestations of unwanted creatures. The problem in this case is the fact that cats don’t quite choose what they hunt. While they do hunt rodents, they also hunt plenty of other species that are considered rare or even endangered. And if things aren’t acted out upon soon, the cats could do serious damage to the population of such species—especially the birds that are on the island.

The regional council is giving cat lovers six months to get themselves a cat if they wish. After this period, no new cats would be allowed in the area. If new families were moving into the town, they would have to give up their cats first before they can move in. While it may seem drastic, the regional council believes that it’s the necessary thing to do in order to be fair and thorough at the same time. The council assures residents that those who refuse to follow or ignore the policy would be continuously pursued to send the cats away. If nothing happens still, the regional council would have no choice but to seize the cats from their owners.

The entire clause is only a small part of a larger program to protect native animals in Omaui that have not developed the proper natural defense mechanisms against mammalian predators. Mammals have only been recently introduced into that part of the islands when settlers moved in. Many birds and reptiles have since become vulnerable because of the introduction of mammals into the area. The proposal seeks to protect naïve native animals from a total of 72 predators, and the cat is just one among those.

The immediate action against cats is due to the fact that they’re the most obvious predators and probably because they’re the easiest to take care of. The current population of cats are small enough to be controlled, and it’s easier now to handle before things get even more out of hand. Having said that, the regional council actually hasn’t done specific research in observation of the cats in the area. The council is basing their knowledge mostly on the damage caused by cats as evidenced by extensive research from other areas in New Zealand. Whether the policy will get approved or not is still up in the air. Cat supporters are still fighting against it, but there have been no counterproposals presented to the table to provide a different solution. No matter what the opinions of cat supporters may be, there is still a large predation issue that’s endangering rare native species. That problem is still in need of addressing, and a solution needs to happen as soon as possible before it becomes too late.

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