Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Prison Break

BBC News is reporting that South Africa's Robben Island is in the middle of a feral cat controversy. A tourist attraction best known for housing the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for more than twenty-five years, the island is home to more than 130 species of birds. It is also home to a population of feral cats, the offspring of cats kept by prison wardens many years ago.

The cats are not the only mammals causing problems for the island's native birds and reptiles - there are also issues with rat control. This led officials to attempt an innovative option: the Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was supposed to capture, sterilize, and re-release the cats on the island to take care of the burgeoning rat population. Unfortunately, the SPCA could only catch eight of the cats, so the original feral cat control plan (shooting them) has recommenced. According to this AP article at AOL News, some confusion remains over exactly which animals are threatening those native birds and reptiles.


Anonymous said...

Robbin Island has a breeding colony of endangered African "Jackass" Penquins. I suspect cats would find nesting flightless waterfowl attractive prey.

Jennifer Forman Orth said...

Must be a pretty harsh life already, just being called a "Jackass" penguin ( Spheniscus demersus).

This site notes that they breed mostly at dawn and dusk, not a good time to be out if there are cats and rats around. Humans must shoulder a lot of the blame for the rarity of these penguins, especially since, as described on the above website, the penguins used to nest safely in burrows made deep in a long-existing layer of guano...before it was removed for use as fertilizer. :-(

Bird Advocate said...

It's a terrible situation, but not an unsolvable one were some ingenuity used. Unfortunately, it probably won't be.