Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Thursday, 18 February 2016

The influence of socio-demographic factors on free-roaming cat populations in an urban ecosystem in Israel

Finkler H, Hatna E, Terkel J (2011). The influence of neighbourhood socio-demographic factors on densities of free-roaming cat populations in an urban ecosystem in Israel. Wildlife Research 38(3): 235-243.

Context: Free-roaming cat populations are abundant in many urban ecosystems worldwide. Their management is necessary for reasons of public health, risk of wildlife predation and cat welfare related to their high densities. Trap–neuter–return (TNR) programs are now the main cat population control strategy in urban areas. However, the efficacy of such strategies is difficult to evaluate without more precise estimates of cat numbers and a better knowledge of anthropogenic influences on cat densities.

Aims: We aimed to estimate free-roaming cat population numbers and density in residential neighbourhoods in Tel Aviv, and to investigate population densities in relation to several socio-demographic factors.

Methods: We compared free-roaming cat population densities in terms of neighbourhood socio-economic status (SES), housing type, human density and percentage of residential and commercial areas. Five consecutive cat density surveys were carried out in eight residential neighbourhoods in Israel – four in northern Tel Aviv, characterised by high SES, and four in southern Tel Aviv, characterised by low SES. The photographic capture–recapture technique was used and abundance estimates were evaluated using the MARK program. Regression analyses examined the effect of socio-demographic factors on cat densities.

Key results: Neighbourhood socio-economic status significantly influenced kitten density and proportion of neutered cats in the total population: southern neighbourhoods had higher kitten densities and lower neutered cat proportions compared with northern neighbourhoods. Higher adult cat densities featured in mixed profile neighbourhoods of residential and commercial areas compared with solely residential neighbourhoods. Using the linear equation from the regression analysis the entire free-roaming cat population in Tel Aviv was extrapolated to 39 000 cats.

Conclusions: The results suggest that adult cat and kitten densities depend in part on socio-demographic factors, specifically on neighbourhood socio-economic status and the proportion of residential area.

Implications: Our findings in Tel Aviv may be used to improve cat management efforts, by focusing on neighbourhoods hosting higher cat densities; as well as to improve cat welfare by focusing on neighbourhoods with lower neutering rates and higher kitten densities. Finally, the current study may serve as a basis for studies in other cities with similar cat overpopulation problems.

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