Australia plans to kill millions of feral cats by airdropping poisoned sausages
Since Europeans settled in Australia, nearly 130 of its native species have gone extinct. Hoping to prevent the eradication of more unique plants and animals, the Australian government has announced a strategy: improve habitats, create safe havens for at-risk species, and kill two million feral cats by 2020.
Feral cats kill 377 million birds and 649 million reptiles every year in the Land Down Under, according to a 2017 study published in Biological Conservation. As a result, an estimated 20 native mammals are under threat of extinction. This includes critters like the greater bilby, golden bandicoot, black-footed rock-wallaby, black-eared flying-fox and eastern quoll.
As reported by The New York Times, the government hopes to cull the feral cats by trapping them, shooting them, and dropping lethal sausages from the sky. A factory near Perth produced the poisoned treats, which are dropped every kilometer in areas where the cats prowl. The recipe, brewed by Dr. Dave Algar, includes the poison 1080, kangaroo meat, chicken fat and a mix of herbs and spices. "They've got to taste good," explained Shane Morsey, who works with the sausages. "They are the cat's last meal."
Reportedly the animals die within fifteen minutes of eating the sausage, and Dr. Algar tested the recipe out on his own cats first - minus the poison, of course. Despite this, some critics find this tactic gruesome and argue that Australia should focus on other factors that hurt biodiversity, like mining, logging and urban expansion. More than 160,000 people have signed various petitions demanding the government drop the "inhumane" plan.
"There's a possibility there that cats are being used as a distraction to some extent," said Tim Doherty, a conservation ecologist from Deakin University in Australia, while speaking with CNN. "We also need to have a more holistic approach and address all threats to biodiversity."
However, Gregory Andrews, Australia's national commissioner of threatened species, disagrees with the outcry. "We have got to make choices to save animals that we love, and who define us as a nation like the bilby, the warru (Black-footed rock-wallaby) and the night parrot," Andrews told The Sydney Morning Herald. He reminded critics that the cull targets feral cats, not domestic cats, and is not driven by bloodlust
"[Feral cats] are the single biggest threat to our native animals, and have already directly driven into extinction 20 out of 30 mammals lost," Andrews said. "I sleep well because - having been a cat owner for most of my life - the science says every feral cat will kill three to 20 native animals a week."