Scientists rally to keep out 'supercats'

To: Birding-aus <>
Subject: Scientists rally to keep out 'supercats'
From: Beth Mantle <>
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2008 11:20:56 +1000
Ah yes, another opportunity to start "cat-bashing" on the Birding-Aus email list.

I am wearied by those who relish an opportunity to make bird-loving cat-owners seem like traitors to the Australian Ecology. I think it is quite rude, and I for one am completely fed up with it. I find it particularly offensive when I am regaled with tales of cat cruelty, in the name of "saving the Australian natives", usually after I have confessed to owning a cat (like a criminal - I feel it is a "confession").

I could write on for paragraphs as to why (in my humble opinion) cat- bashers are generally quite ignorant about the complexity of the feral animal problem, and instead use domestic cats as a scape-goat for the atrocious way we are managing the Australian landscape.

Instead, read some literature and get informed. Prof, Chris Dickson from Sydney University (mentioned in the below article) has himself said "Despite the abundance of observations linking cats to extensive losses of native species, other evidence suggests that their impact has been minimal". Furthermore, domestic "suburban" cats are making very little difference to suburban ecology for the simple reason that the animals they are killing are dominant species that occur in large numbers (e.g. Crested pigeon, Magpie-lark, Noisy miner etc.) (Low, 1999).

I agree that introducing the Ashera hybrid into Australia would be a disaster and I hope it is prevented.

However, domestic cats were brought here by Europeans and they are here to stay. Instead of attacking cat-owners who clearly have a strong sense of ecological responsibility (like Bill, who keeps his cat contained), they should be congratulated and held up to the general public as a shining example of responsible cat ownership. Then petition your local council to make cat neutering, registration and containment compulsory. It is much more productive than "the only good cat is a dead cat" email or conversation.

Thank you.

Dr Beth Mantle
Ecologist AND cat-owner (gasp!)

On 13/06/2008, at 9:27 AM, Alastair Smith wrote:

From the ABC news website:

Supercat or superbad? An 11kg ashera, a cross between an African serval, an
Asian leopard and a domestic cat (Reuters: Mike Blake, file photo)

*        <> Related
Story: Push to outlaw hybrid supercats

Forty of the nation's leading feral animal researchers are calling for
urgent changes to prevent hybrid supercats from being imported into

The Federal Government has been under fire after it was revealed last week that savannah cats - twice as big as domestic species - are being imported
by pet shops.

Scientists are warning that bandicoots, bettongs, potoroos and possums could soon be on the menu for the imported creatures, which were originally bred
by crossing domestic cats with the African serval cat.

Scientists, environmentalists and bureaucrats attending a National Feral Cat Workshop in Darwin this week have angrily condemned the quarantine loophole.

The University of Sydney's professor of ecology, Chris Dickman, is warning hybrid cats - which can jump up to two metres from a standing start - would
be uncontrollable in the Australian outback.

"It's taken a lot of people who are concerned about the impacts of cats in
the Australian environment off guard," he said.

"I think there will be some real concern expressed at the meeting that here is an example of another species, a predator that is quite capable almost
certainly of taking a wide range of native species.

"It hasn't come in through the usual quarantine processes, risk assessments
that would otherwise need to be done."

Professor Dickman fears savannah cats would prey on the same Australian
wildlife as foxes.

He says that while foxes can be poisoned, cats have proved extremely hard to
control in the outback.

"It would be competing with the fox for food in the same size class. We can control the fox, we are not very good at controlling cats at the moment," he

"Cats tend to prefer living food, live food, that they catch themselves. And as a consequence, it's much more difficult to put baits out and expect feral
cats to eat them."

The Environment Department says it has been in contact with two people
proposing to import savannah cats later this year, and is examining the


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