The authorities on Christmas Island, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean with a population of about 2,000 people, are planning to use drones to drop poison bait to kill the feral cats on the island. The island is an Australian external territory. It is around 8 miles long on its longest length and 5 miles wide at its longest width (in all 52 sq mi).
Is a great shame that the authorities feel that they are unable to operate a relatively small trap-neuter-release programme on the feral cats. Surely this is an example where TNR can be practised successfully. The area is contained. It is a perfect place to carry out a well-controlled TNR program. It is a good opportunity to test TNR on an island. Yes, it would take longer for the feral cats’ population to decline substantially but above all else it would be humane. It would also be safer. Are they sure that they can just kill feral cats when they bomb the place with poisoned bait from drones?
For me, being a cat lover and animal advocate, it seems to be a very careless approach to dealing with the “feral cat problem” on the island. It is a sloppy approach and a method which is less likely to work in the long term.
It is interesting to note – and I do not wish to sound racist on this subject – that the island is made up of five ethnic groups. Sixty-five percent of the islanders are Chinese and 20% Malay. Only 10% are European. I regret to say this but we know how the Chinese relate to cats, domestic or feral. They are particularly insensitive to the welfare of cats. Perhaps this is one reason why they prefer to poison them rather than neuter them.
In this instance, I am in favour of removing feral cats from the island because in a confined and limited space such as Christmas Island cats can do a lot of damage to native species. It must also be said though that rats are equally efficient predators. They are on the island as well.
Apparently, cats were first introduced to the island in 1888 by British settlers. The native species at risk include: the Christmas Island hawk-owl, the Christmas Island thrush, Lister’s gecko and the pink blind snake.
The authorities plan to use Sky Hero drones. Tests indicated that 88% of 448 baits could have reached feral cats. It is possible that land crabs may carry off the baits. I don’t feel very confident about this and, in any case, it is cruel and unnecessary when the much better alternative of TNR is available to them.