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Concerns over a number of wild animals being killed by Cape Town cats

Picture: David W Cerny/Reuters

Picture: David W Cerny/Reuters

Published Aug 4, 2020

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Cape Town – One domestic cat has been found to kill about 90 animal species a year in Cape Town, which could potentially pose a risk towards the conservation of wildlife, according to the latest study from a cat camera and questionnaire.

The research study was conducted by researchers from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and SA National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi).

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Environmentalists have been concerned over the impact cat predation may be having on wildlife, particularly around Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) areas.

The study found that about 300 000 domestic cats in Cape Town killed about 27.5 million animals a year.

It also stated that TMNP was likely to lose about 203 500 animals annually due to cats living within 150 metres of the national parks protected areas.

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Sanbi and research co-author Colleen Seymour said: “This study highlights the need for us to devise strategic initiatives that will preserve the Cape’s conservation areas.

"By working with cat owners we can find solutions that benefit both the cats and wildlife areas.”

The research stated that 17% of animals killed by cats living in urban environments were known to be “pest” species such as mice or rats.

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Another 6% of pests living near the park were killed by the cats which may imply that many indigenous animals are killed.

Targeted animals include a number of threatened or endemic species, including western leopard toads, Cape rain frogs, and orange-breasted sun birds.

UCT researcher and co-author Rob Simmons said there was a high price for controlling a few pest species.

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"It needs to be ensured that a balance is created to prevent the loss of any wildlife species possibly due to cat predation.”

Limiting cat predation may include using cat-free buffers around the TMNP areas and enclosures in gardens.

Animal Welfare Society of SA spokesperson Allan Perrins said: “There is no denial that the outcome of the study by UCT and Sanbi paints a grim picture for our wild neighbours that should be of major concern to everyone, not just cat owners.”

Perrins added that the solution for harmony as opposed to harm started with cat owners acknowledging their domestic pets were a contributor to the decimation of many wild creatures, full stop.

"Cats are born predators. It’s in their DNA and no amount of passive or active behaviour modification is in our opinion going to change that. In many instances it is also impractical to confine cats who, unlike many other pets, prefer to come and go as they like.

“All cats should be sterilised, this will inhibit their wanting to roam. The burden of responsibility is also a shared one in that cat owners as well as conservation authorities and law enforcement officials need to be proactive – or the argument that cats are being used as a scapegoat could trump the outcome of any well intended study/conservation measure,” he said.

In response to the study, environmentalist Gabriel Scholtz said: “Cats are definitely predators naturally, but I would hesitate to imply that their predation is devastating to populations when you consider that the advent of the human population in areas is now urban but was once wild.

“South Africa was once filled with South African wild cats and other feline species which are now no longer around.

“It may raise questions of how impactful the study is.”

Cape Argus

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