Cat lovers and conservationists in the small coastal village of Omaui in Southland region, New Zealand, are deeply divided over the local council’s plan to phase out felines to save native species including birds, lizards and insects.
Feline fans argue that poisons, cars and humans also kill native species.
The proposal by Environment Southland tabled on Tuesday says cats should be neutered, micro-chipped and registered with the council. Once cats die, they should not be replaced.
John Collins, chairman of Omaui Landcare Charitable Trust, told Otago Daily Times, a local newspaper from Dunedin, that the cat-free plan is significant for a high-value conservation area like Omaui to ensure that endemic species thrive. He told the newspaper how cats preyed on native birds visiting his lawn.
Six bird species including Lyall’s wren become extinct due to cats.
Omaui’s experiment, which is going to anger feline fans, is not the first one. Several far-flung islands of New Zealand have phased out cats from the 1920s.
New Zealand’s Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage recently suggested a cat-free plan to Wellington residents to bring back flightless birds including kiwi.
Cat owners told Otago Daily Times that they are not going to observe the ban. They cited how the presence of cats help them in tackling rodent problem.
If cat owners do not follow the rules, they will receive a notice. Officials will remove the pets only as a last resort.
After the cat-free plan was announced, the village council has been flooded with calls and emails for and against it.
Residents have time till October-end to register their submissions to Environment Southland’s plan.