A nation’s conservationists are always hostile towards non-native species. It is axiomatic. It is automatic. Non-native species must be bad for the environment and native species.
This is certainly the case for Australian conservationists and environmental experts who provide advice to local and national governments. These ‘experts’ colour opinion. They change opinions. They create an attitude which is entrenched against feral cats. All cats in Australia are non-native. There should be no cats in Australia whatsoever because their ancestors were all introduced by humans. But domestic cats wandering outside cannot be attacked either verbally or actually because they are family members and it is legal in most places in Australia for domestic cats to roam outside.
Australians don’t see any possibility that ‘alien’ feral cats might be beneficial in some ways. I am saying they might be beneficial because I don’t know the situation accurately regarding ‘pests’ and pest control in Australia. Although I don’t believe in the word ‘pest’ when describing an animal (I do when it relates to a human!), I do understand the reason why the authorities in Australia consider some animals to be pests. Three pest species come to mind, all of which might be controllable by feral cats.
Some quick research indicates periodical mouse plagues in Australia. They follow wet seasons apparently. The mouse plagues are horrendous in Australia, far outstripping those in America or Europe.
Two other species are both potential feral cat prey items and pests in Australia: rabbits and rats. The European rabbit causes ecological damage. Rats occupy a wide range of habitats. Two species are non-native but they seem to live in urban areas. The problem that Australians have is feral cats killing non-native and endangered species outside of urban areas.
However, my research indicates there is a ‘rat problem’ in Australia. To which you can add the rabbit and mouse problem. Is it incorrect to suggest that feral cats already help to control the population size of these species? To eradicate them may lead to greater and more mouse plagues for instance. Can’t the endangered species of Australia be protected from predation in large reserves devoid of feral cats?
Feral cats are now part of the ecosystem in Australia. It might be better to work with them rather than trying to exterminate them. There is a lot of opposition to extermination plans. The cost might be prohibitive as well. In fact, in truth, it is almost certainly impossible. They don’t even know how many there are.
Australians believe that TNR is impractical as a way of controlling their feral cats. However, it would be much cheaper as volunteers historically run TNR programs. There is no labour charge. All that these volunteers need is support systems such as veterinarians providing spaying and neutering services.
And TNR programs are designed to manage feral cat population sizes. If the population of feral cats could be stabilised that would be considered a success. Politically that should be acceptable. TNR would engage the citizens of Australia. It would be working from the bottom up rather than local authority contractors killing cats willy-nilly (the top down). This sort of scenario would be politically unpopular. There are still many animal lovers in Australia. Let them work out the feral cat problem themselves with government support and encouragement.
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