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Australian proposal would wipe wild cats from continent

March 14, 1997
Web posted at: 8:05 p.m. EST (0105 GMT)


From Correspondent John Raedler

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Australia is home to many unique species -- the kangaroo and the platypus counting among the best known.

But have you ever heard of the Brush-Tailed Bettong? The Eastern Barred Bandicoot? The Bilby? All are among Australia's endangered species, and according to Australia's government, their reduction is the fault of wild icon (1.3 MB / 37 sec. QuickTime movie)

So, despite fierce criticism and lack of support from government, one Australian politician is standing by his controversial proposal to eradicate all cats from that country. Richard Evans says cats, a species not native to Australia, are eating all its animals.


"Cats are known to kill and eat more than 100 species of birds, 50 species of mammals, 50 species of reptiles," Evans told Parliament.

And Dr. Tim Flannery of the Australian Museum says the native animals aren't equipped to fight with cats. "We've done some tests with our native animals to show that they don't recognize cat scent, for instance, as representing a threat," he said.

Late last year, Evans decided enough was enough, and called for the "total eradication of cats in Australia."

Evans believes there are 10 million to 12 million feral cats in Australia -- each of them, on average, killing three native animals a day. If those estimates are accurate, that means a mind-boggling massacre of about 12 billion native animals a year.


Animal welfare specialist Charles Wright says the proposal is mad.

"You'll never wipe out all cats," he said. And, he said the estimates of how many animals a cat kills daily were manufactured "by a farfetched politician who just wants to obtain some sort of publicity for his own end -- at the expense of the poor old cat."

Evans told CNN that domestic cats are as big a problem as feral cats.

"A domestic cat could be considered feral once it steps out of the back door. Domestic cats are only one good meal away from being feral," he said. But he was vague on how total eradication would be achieved.


"Shooting might be a solution, trapping, baiting. There's a whole range of different things," he said.

Shooting has been tried before. In the early 1990s, Australian soldiers were called in to get rid of troublesome feral cats in the Outback.

But even in cities, there is an abundance of cats. Thousands of cats have to be destroyed each week at animal welfare centers throughout the country.

However, Evans' proposal is unlikely to be passed, because all levels of government have dismissed the idea of eradication.

They agree with animal-welfare authorities that rather than a quick-fix solution to the cat problem, all that is possible is better management through measures such as mandatory desexing and keeping domestic cats from roaming.


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