Australia plans to kill 2 million cats by airdropping poisonous sausages, trapping and shooting them
While conservationists largely agree that the population of feral cats needs to be controlled, they have also expressed doubts about how the government is going about it.
The Australian government will be undertaking measures to cut down its massive feral cat population, with estimates suggesting that by 2020, they want to kill two million free-roaming cats. This would account for around 1/3rd of their entire population, which figures put at around 6 million currently.
According to the Daily Caller, to cull their numbers, the government is airdropping sausage which contains a mix of chicken fat, kangaroo meat, herbs, and spices, as well as a special ingredient: poison.
But the question is, why is the government killing them by the millions? It's because these feral cats are one of the most major invasive species in the country and the single biggest threats to its native species. They have been linked to the extinction of at least 22 of its native species and also threaten dozens of small rodent and marsupial species, as well as other species like the brush-tailed rabbit-rat and the golden bandicoot.
Introduced in the continent by European settlers sometime in the 17th century, their numbers have swelled to a point where they now occupy 99.8% percent of the country. Researchers' estimates suggest they number 100 per square kilometer, and that they kill more than 1 million native birds, and 1.7 million reptiles across the country every day.
Having decided to tackle the problem, the government first introduced its plan to cut down the feral cats' population in 2015. Besides the poisonous sausages ploy, which has been put into work recently, other eradication methods used include shooting and trapping.
Some areas of Australia have gone one step farther, reported CNN. For example, in the northeastern state of Queensland, there's a council which offers a $7 bounty per feral cat scalp. On a larger scale, the government has pledged $5 million to support community groups who can directly contribute to its project.
While conservationists largely agree that the population of feral cats needs to be controlled, they have also expressed doubt with how the government is going about it. Tim Doherty, a conservationist from Deakin University, said, "At the time, when the target was set in 2015, we actually didn't know how many feral cats there were in Australia," referring to how some estimates put the number as high as 18 million.
"There's not really a reliable way to estimate across an entire continent, and if you're going to set a target, and if you want it to be meaningful, you need to be able to measure your progress towards it," he added.
It's a problem that's not unique to Australia either. Neighboring New Zealand has similarly proposed a cat-free future, with both domestic and feral cats either controlled or culled. They have also announced a goal of becoming predator-free by 2050, with the government estimating that rats, possums, and stoats kill 25 million native birds each year.