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

Friday 25 April 2014

Ancient introductions of mammals in Mediterranean islands and their implications for conservation

Gippoliti, S., & Amori, G. (2006). Ancient introductions of mammals in the Mediterranean Basin and their implications for conservation. Mammal Review,36(1), 37-48.

1 The importance of taxonomy to the determination of conservation priorities and actions is widely accepted. It should be not surprising therefore that the taxonomic treatment of mammal species that have been subject to human actions in antiquity may well influence the contemporary assessment of conservation priorities at various levels.
2 As a result of early extinctions caused by humans and protohistoric and historic introductions, we suggest that the Mediterranean Basin and its islands are particularly prone to misdirection of efforts towards biodiversity conservation.
3 The two main risks associated with the failure to use an evolutionary and palaeoecological approach to conservation efforts are (i) an underestimation of the conservation importance of distinctive continental taxa vs. the apparent endemicity of island taxa; and (ii) a serious risk for native and endemic island species when anthropochorous mammals, especially ungulates, misguidedly become the focus of conservation actions, particularly inside protected areas.
4 Urgent measures, including refinement of mammal taxonomy, the exclusion of known anthropochorous taxa from conservation lists and implementation of protective legislation, are necessary to maintain the uniqueness and richness of the Mediterranean biodiversity hotspot.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Mandatory spay ordinance as the solution to San Francisco dog problem

Lang, D. (2013). A Mandatory Spay/Neuter Ordinance in San Francisco: The Solution to San Francisco’s Other Homeless Problem. Master's Capstone Projects.Paper 6. University of San Francisco

The dog overpopulation in San Francisco has been straining San Francisco’s Department of Animal Care & Control’s already limited resources with the increase in dog impoundments and animal cruelty cases, particularly ones involving dogs. At least 33 local governments around the United States have implemented mandatory spay/neuter laws for all dogs as a way to curb the companion animal overpopulation. San Francisco should adopt a similar mandatory spay/neuter law, in which all dogs over the age of six months, with certain exceptions, must be spayed or neutered. This will relieve the strain on Animal Care & Control, will save the City money, and will decrease pain, suffering, and even death among San Francisco’s dog population.

Humans have a responsibility to care for companion animals because we domesticated them and allow them to breed in a world where there are not enough homes for them. So humans should take action to decease breeding, especially accidental breeding, so as to decrease the population of unwanted dogs. This human action should be in the form of implementing a mandatory spay/neuter law, so the majority of dogs will be unable to reproduce and so that breeders are restricted to one litter per year to minimize their contribution to the companion animal overpopulation. Not only is spaying and neutering crucial to reducing the population of unwanted dogs, but it also has many health, behavioral, and societal benefits. Spaying and neutering will increase the health of dogs by reducing their chances of developing certain cancers; it will increase their life span; and it will increase public safety and public health byreducing aggression, making them less likely to bite, and reducing the number of stray dogs wandering the streets.

Even though most veterinarians, most members of the animal shelter community, and most animal welfare/rights activists agree that spaying/neutering is vital to decreasing the companion animal overpopulation, they disagree on whether spaying/neutering should be mandatory or simply encouraged. Proponents of mandatory spay/neuter laws argue that they will save local governments money, produce more revenue, and improve public safety and public health. On the other hand, opponents argue that low-cost spay/neuter programs are more effective at decreasing the companion animal overpopulation, mandatory spay/neuter laws punish poor people and will result in more companion animals being abandoned in shelters, they discourage people from taking their animals to the vet or to the animal shelter for fear of being reported to authorities for having an unaltered animal, they punish responsible companion animal guardians and breeders, they waste public resources, and they are difficult to enforce.

An analysis of shelter data from two municipalities—Clark County, Nevada, and Los Angeles County, California—that have implemented mandatory spay/neuter laws reveals that recent dog intake and euthanasia rates are the lowest they have been in the past two decades, indicating that these laws are successful at reducing the unwanted dog population. In 2005, San Francisco’s Commission of Animal Control and Welfare considered implementing a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance for all dogs, but it never went past Commission meetings. However, in 2006, San Francisco implemented a mandatory spay/neuter law for Pit Bulls, which resulted in a decrease in Pit Bull euthanasia rates. The success of this law can be partly attributed to the free spay/neuter services for Pit Bulls offered by the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SF SPCA). Other free spay/neuter services for any breed of dog are also offered in various locations in San Francisco, which would help ensure the success of a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance for all dogs.

San Francisco should implement a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance that requires that all dogs six months or older must be spayed or neutered, with exemptions for dogs who are too old or sick to undergo the spay/neuter surgery and dogs whose health would be threatened by the spay/neuter surgery. In addition, guardians who do not want to spay or neuter their dogs must obtain an intact dog license or a breeding license. Animal Care & Control can enforce the mandatory spay/neuter law by modifying its dog licensing system to assign different colored tags for different licenses—regular dog licenses, intake dog license, and breeding license.

Furthermore, breeders must show proof that they have a breeding license by putting the license number on their advertisements or sales receipts, and they must be restricted to one litter per year and the number of unaltered animals they are allowed to have should be limited, as well, so as to not further contribute to the companion animal overpopulation problem. And finally, penalties for violations of the mandatory spay/neuter law should be civil, rather than criminal.

Monday 21 April 2014

Cats' threat to wildlife in San Diego County

...In San Diego County, the potential threat feral cats pose to wildlife is particularly troublesome. Our county is within one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots. Our ocean, beaches, bays, mountains and desert landscapes, and unique coastal sage scrub and chaparral plant communities, support a wide diversity of plant and animal life, including more than 500 species of birds.

Sunday 20 April 2014

Evolutionary basis of feeding behaviour of dogs and cats

Bradshaw, J. W. (2006). The evolutionary basis for the feeding behavior of domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and cats (Felis catus). The Journal of nutrition,136(7), 1927S-1931S.

The dentition, sense of taste and meal patterning of domestic dogs and cats can be interpreted in terms of their descent from members of the order Carnivora. The dog is typical of its genus, Canis, in its relatively unspecialized dentition, and a taste system that is rather insensitive to salt. The preference of many dogs for large infrequent meals reflects the competitive feeding behavior of its pack-hunting ancestor, the wolf Canis lupus. However, its long history of domestication, possibly 100,000 years, has resulted in great intraspecific diversity of conformation and behavior, including feeding. Morphologically and physiologically domestic cats are highly specialized carnivores, as indicated by their dentition, nutritional requirements, and sense of taste, which is insensitive to both salt and sugars. Their preference for several small meals each day reflects a daily pattern of multiple kills of small prey items in their ancestor, the solitary territorial predator Felis silvestris. Although in the wild much of their food selection behavior must focus on what to hunt, rather than what to eat, cats do modify their food preferences based on experience. For example, the “monotony effect” reduces the perceived palatability of foods that have recently formed a large proportion of the diet, in favor of foods with contrasting sensory characteristics, thereby tending to compensate for any incipient nutritional deficiencies. Food preferences in kittens during weaning are strongly influenced by those of their mother, but can change considerably during at least the first year of life.

Saturday 19 April 2014

Urban coyotes and cats

Webster, J.C. (2007). Missing cats, stray coyotes: one citizen’s perspective. Wildlife Damage Management Conferences -- Proceedings.Paper 78.


Originally published in Proceedings of the 12th Wildlife Damage Management Conference (D.L. Nolte, W.M. Arjo, D.H. Stalman, Eds). 2007. This is the revised version that appears in Urban Coyote Management: A collection of papers pre-sented at the Urban Coyote Symposium within the 12th Wildlife Damage Management Conference Corpus Christi, Texas, April 11, 2007, Robert M. Timm, Editor (Collierville, TN, 2008). ISBN 978-1-60458-362-5 Copyright © 2007 by the Wildlife Damage Management Working Group of The Wildlife Society. Used by permission.


The author explores the issue of urban coyotes and coyote management from a cat owner’s perspective, with specific examples from Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Following a personal encounter with two coyotes in July 2005 that led to the death of a cat, the author has delved into the history of Vancouver’s “Co-existing with Coyotes”, a government-funded program run by a nonprofit ecological society. The policy’s roots in conservation biology, the environmental movement, and the human dimensions branch of wildlife management are documented. The author contends that “Co-existing with Coyotes” puts people and pets at greater risk of attack by its inadequate response to habituated coyotes, and by an educational component that misrepresents real dangers and offers unworkable advice. The environmental impact of domestic cats is addressed. The author makes the case that generalized opinions about the negative effects of cats on songbird populations and other wildlife, and assertions that urban coyotes are beneficial, are unsupported by objective experimental data. When environmentalists, who predominantly hold these views, also research, promote, and oversee urban wildlife policy, there is a consequent lack of interest in restricting coyote populations in cities, along with little concern for the fate of outdoor cats and even a desire for their depredation.

Friday 18 April 2014

Exurban development and biodiversity

Low-density rural home development is the fastest-growing form of land use in the United States since 1950. This “exurban” development (6–25 homes/km2) includes urban fringe development (UFD) on the periphery of cities and rural residential development (RRD) in rural areas attractive in natural amenities. This paper synthesizes current knowledge on the effects of UFD and RRD. We present two case studies and examine the patterns of biodiversity response and the ecological mechanisms that may underlie these responses. We found that many native species have reduced survival and reproduction near homes, and native species richness often drops with increased exurban densities. Exotic species, some human-adapted native species, and species from early successional stages often increase with exurban development. These relationships are sometimes nonlinear, with sharp thresholds in biodiversity response. These effects may be manifest for several decades following exurban development, so that biodiversity is likely still responding to the wave of exurban expansion that has occurred since 1950. The location of exurban development is often nonrandom relative to biodiversity because both are influenced by biophysical factors. Consequently, the effects on biodiversity may be disproportionately large relative to the area of exurban development. RRD is more likely than UFD to occur near public lands; hence it may have a larger influence on nature reserves and wilderness species. The ecological mechanisms that may underlie these responses involve alteration of habitat, ecological processes, biotic interactions, and increased human disturbance. Research on the patterns and mechanisms of biodiversity remains underdeveloped, and comparative and experimental studies are needed. Knowledge resulting from such studies will increase our ability to understand, manage, and mitigate negative impacts on biodiversity.

Thursday 17 April 2014

Spatial organisation of urban feral cats in Jerusalem

Mirmovitch, V. (1995). Spatial organisation of urban feral cats (Felis catus) in Jerusalem. Wildlife Research, 22(3), 299-310.

Feral cats were studied for 10 months in a residential area in Jerusalem and their spatial distribution compared during two 1-month periods, the first in the autumn prior to the mating season and the second during the mating season (winter). Cat locations were recorded by direct observations, and home-range sizes were calculated with the minimum convex polygon method. No significant change in home-range size of adult males or females was found between the 2 periods. Young males expanded their home ranges considerably during their first mating season. Home ranges of males were significantly larger than those of females in both periods (0.56 and 0.30 ha, respectively, in autumn; 0.75 and 0.27 ha in winter). The home ranges of both sexes overlapped considerably with individuals of the same sex. Overlap among home ranges of females indicated a group pattern. High overlap (80%) was found among females that fed from the same set of garbage bins with similar frequency. Lower overlap (20%) was found between individual females that shared only a subset of their food resources and used it with different frequency. It is suggested that the distribution of food patches (garbage bins), the amount of food available and the rate of food renewal determined the cats' spatial organisation.

Assessment of the effort to eradicate feral cats

Parkes, J., Fisher, P., Robinson, S., & Aguirre-Muñoz, A. (2014). Eradication of feral cats from large islands: an assessment of the effort required for success.New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 38(2), 0-0.

Feral cats (Felis catus) are predators and competitors of native species on many islands and are therefore the target of control efforts. Cat eradication has been achieved on 83 islands worldwide. Six of these successes have been from large islands (over 2000 ha) and have reported sufficient data to examine how the eradication was achieved through combinations of aerial and ground-based poison baiting, fumigation in rabbit burrows used by cats, cage and leghold trapping, day and night shooting, and hunting with dogs. No common sequence of tactics was deployed although leghold traps were used in the latter phases of most projects. It took a mean reported effort of 543 ± 341 person-days per 1000 ha of island over 5.2 ± 1.6 years to completely remove cats and validate success from the six islands. These precedents may assist in planning future proposals to eradicate cats from other large islands.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Sex bias on cat predation on Eastern bluebirds

Pitts, T. D., & Snow, R. W. (1996). Mortality of Banded Adult Eastern Bluebirds. Audubon Society of Omaha.

Domestic cats are, narrowly, the second most important cause of non-natural mortality, just after shooting. 

Of 51 Eastern Bluebirds killed by domestic cats, 19 were females and 5 were males; the sex of the other birds was not indicated. While this sample size is not much larger than that of bluebirds found dead in the nest (24 versus 16), the trend seen here shows a significant difference in the number of males and females killed (X2 = 8.16, df = 1, P <0.005). Figure 5 shows that mortality due to domestic cats is highest during the nesting season. Considering that the female bluebirds, who construct each nest, lay eggs, and incubate the eggs, receive significant amounts of help from the male only when caring for nestlings, we are not surprised that more females are captured by domestic cats. 
(Domestic cats kill an unknown, but probably large, number of nestling bluebirds. However, since this paper deals only with adult mortality we have not explored the effects of cat predation on nestlings.)

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Eurasian origin of American dogs

Leonard, J. A., Wayne, R. K., Wheeler, J., Valadez, R., Guillén, S., & Vila, C. (2002). Ancient DNA evidence for Old World origin of New World dogs. Science,298 (5598), 1613-1616.

Mitochondrial DNA sequences isolated from ancient dog remains from Latin America and Alaska showed that native American dogs originated from multiple Old World lineages of dogs that accompanied late Pleistocene humans across the Bering Strait. One clade of dog sequences was unique to the New World, which is consistent with a period of geographic isolation. This unique clade was absent from a large sample of modern dogs, which implies that European colonists systematically discouraged the breeding of native American dogs.

Fine scale resource selection by feral cats

Recio, M. R., Mathieu, R., Virgós, E., & Seddon, P. J. 2014. Quantifying fine-scale resource selection by introduced feral cats to complement management decision-making in ecologically sensitive areas. Biological Invasions, 1-13.

The feral domestic cat (Felis catus) is considered to be one of the most damaging introduced predators, responsible for the decline and extinction of numerous native species. Advanced satellite technologies enable the study of resource selection by small mammals at fine-scales through remote data. These tools can improve understanding of the spatial ecology of introduced predators in ecologically sensitive areas, such as where cats pose a threat to native species and where improvement of predator control methods is required. We studied fine-scale resource selection by feral cats in the ecologically important New Zealand braided-river ecosystem, where they pose a risk to endangered native ground-nesting birds. We collected 34 location datasets from 21 cats fitted with lightweight global positioning system-collars, and extracted landscape variables from a resource map created using very high spatial resolution satellite imagery (Quickbird) and object-base imagery analysis for image classification. We modelled second-order seasonal and annual resource selection functions and characterized landscape composition of highly-used areas using compositional analysis. At a population level, cats generally selected fine-scale landscapes that are important for their primary prey rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and for refugia. An external validation of the annual model using data from cats tracked in an independent study showed a positive correlation with model predictions. Individual cats also visited habitats used by native ground-nesting birds, and thus pose a threat to them through secondary predation or individual specialization. Cat control operations should therefore focus around areas of concentrated ground-nesting bird activity and in areas identified as high-use by cats.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Mammal eradication from NZ islands

Clout, M. N., & Russell, J. C. (2006). The eradication of mammals from New Zealand islands. 127-141 In Koike, F., Clout, M.N., Kawamichi, M., De Poorter, M. and Iwatsuki, K. (eds.), Assessment and Control of Biological Invasion Risks. Shoukadoh Book Sellers, Kyoto, Japan and the World Conservation Union (IUCN), Gland, Switzerland, 2006.

Data on eradication operations against alien mammals on New Zealand islands show that there was a substantial increase in the number of successful eradications in the 1980s and 1990s. The most significant change has been in the ability to eradicate rodents from increasingly large islands (to over 11,000ha), using aerial poisoning techniques. Based on the New Zealand experience, there are good prospects for further eradications of alien mammals from islands around the world, facilitating ecological restoration and the recovery of threatened species. However, instances of reinvasion of rats (Rattus spp.) and stoats (Mustela erminea) onto previously cleared islands illustrate the importance of prevention, effective monitoring and a fuller understanding of invasion risks.

Saturday 12 April 2014

Prevalence of T. gondii in house cats

De Craeye, S., Francart, A., Chabauty, J., De Vriendt, V., Van Gucht, S., Leroux, I., & Jongert, E. (2008). Prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii infection in Belgian house cats. Veterinary parasitology, 157(1), 128-132.

Five hundred and sixty seven sera of healthy house cats aged 3 months to 7 years, were examined for the presence of anti-toxoplasma antibodies by indirect immunofluorescence assay and compared to SAG1 and TLA enzyme linked immunosorbent assays as alternative test. Twenty-five percent of cats tested positive for IgG and/or IgM. Seroprevalence increased with age from 2% below 12 months of age up to 44% at age 7. Sensitivities of SAG1 and TLA ELISA were 84.1% and 88.6%, respectively. Peak levels in seroprevalence were correlated to increased IgG titers in TLA ELISA. Our results suggest that T. gondii infections are common in house cats and that there is a high chance for a negative cat to seroconvert in its second life-year.

Cats, Toxoplasma and public health

Dabritz, H. A., & Conrad, P. A. (2010). Cats and Toxoplasma: implications for public health. Zoonoses and Public Health, 57(1), 34-52.

Cats are popular as pets worldwide because they are easy to care for and provide companionship that enriches the lives of human beings. Little attention has been focused on their potential to contaminate the environment with zoonotic pathogens. One such pathogen, the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, rarely causes clinical manifestations in cats or immunocompetent humans; however, it can have serious adverse effects on human foetuses and immunocompromised patients. Many human infections are believed to be acquired from eating undercooked or raw meat, such as pork and lamb (Tenter et al., 2000; Dubey et al., 2005). However, the prevalence of T. gondii infection in human populations that do not consume meat or eat it well-cooked suggests that the acquisition of infection from the environment, via oocysts in soil, water or on uncooked vegetables, is also important (Rawal, 1959; Roghmann et al., 1999; Chacin-Bonilla et al., 2001). In the past 20 years, two changes occurred that significantly increased the size of the cat population in the USA. Pet cat ownership grew from 50 million to 90 million animals, and animal welfare activists created feeding stations for abandoned and free-roaming cats. As many cat owners allow their cats to deposit faeces outside and cats maintained in colonies always defecate outside, ample opportunity exists for T. gondii oocysts to enter the environment and be transmitted to humans. Prevention efforts should focus on educating cat owners about the importance of collecting cat faeces in litter boxes, spaying owned cats to reduce overpopulation, reducing the numbers of feral cats and promoting rigorous hand hygiene after gardening or soil contact.

Prevalence of T. gondii depends on household effect

Fromont, E. G., Riche, B., & Rabilloud, M. (2009). Toxoplasma seroprevalence in a rural population in France: detection of a household effect. BMC infectious diseases, 9(1), 76.


Toxoplasma gondii, the agent of toxoplasmosis, has a complex life cycle. In humans, the parasite may be acquired either through ingestion of contaminated meat or through oocysts present in the environment. The importance of each source of contamination varies locally according to the environment characteristics and to differences concerning human eating habits and the presence of cats; thus, the risk factors may be determined through fine-scale studies. Here, we searched for factors associated with seropositivity in the population of two adjacent villages in Lorraine region, France.

All voluntary inhabitants filled out a questionnaire and gave a blood sample. The seroprevalence was estimated globally and according to the inhabitants' ages using a cubic spline regression. A mixed logistic regression model was used to quantify the effect of individual and household factors on the probability of seropositivity.

Based on serological results from 273 persons, we estimated seroprevalence to be 47% (95% confidence interval: 41 to 53%). That seroprevalence increased with age: the slope was the steepest up to the age of 40 years (OR = 2.48 per 10-year increment, 95% credibility interval: [1.29 to 5.09]), but that increase was not significant afterwards. The probability of seropositivity tended to be higher in men than in women (OR = 2.01, 95% credibility interval: [0.92 to 4.72]) and in subjects eating raw vegetables at least once a week than in the others (OR = 8.4, 95% credibility interval: [0.93 to 72.1]). These effects were close to statistical significance. The multivariable analysis highlighted a significant seroprevalence heterogeneity among households. That seroprevalence varied between 6 and 91% (5th and 95th percentile of the household seropositivity distribution).
ConclusionThe major finding is the household effect, with a strong heterogeneity of seroprevalence among households. This effect may be explained by common exposures of household members to local risk factors. Future work will quantify the link between the presence of oocysts in the soil and the seroprevalence of exposed households using a spatial analysis.

Transmission of T. gondii in an urban population of domestic cats

Afonso, E., Thulliez, P., & Gilot-Fromont, E. (2006). Transmission of Toxoplasma gondii in an urban population of domestic cats (Felis catus). International journal for parasitology, 36(13), 1373-1382.

Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite that infects humans and animal species worldwide. The relative importance of each potential transmission route in the complex life cycle of this coccidia is largely unknown, due to the lack of studies taking into account all routes simultaneously. In this study, we analyzed the transmission of T. gondii in an urban population of stray cats captured between 1993 and 2004. Analyzing prevalence, our aim was to determine which factors influence transmission in this population. Specific anti-T. gondii IgG antibodies were detected using the modified agglutination test. Firstly, we analyzed the kinetics of antibody titers in cats captured several times, using mixed linear models and correspondence analysis. We showed that antibody titers did not vary significantly with time and that titer 40 was the best threshold to separate individuals into two serological groups. Overall, prevalence was only 18.6%, thus transmission of T. gondii is infrequent in this population. As expected, a highly significant association was detected between age and presence of IgG antibodies. Prevalence was lowest in kittens aged 3–4 months, suggesting that newborn kittens may carry maternal antibodies and that vertical transmission is rare. After taking into account the effect of age, logistic regression showed that antibody carriage was related to factors that possibly related to the survival of oocysts: localization in the study site, origin of the cats, maximal temperatures and rain. Our results suggest that in this population, vertical transmission is rare, low predation limits prevalence, and oocyst survival is a determining factor in the risk of infection. We discuss the more general importance of conditions determining oocyst survival in the life cycle of T. gondii.

Cat defecation behaviour and soil contamination by Toxoplasma gondii

In urban areas, there may be a high local risk of zoonosis due to high densities of stray cat populations. In this study, soil contamination by oocysts of Toxoplasma gondii was searched for, and its spatial distribution was analysed in relation to defecation behaviour of cats living in a high-density population present in one area of Lyon (France). Sixteen defecation sites were first identified. Cats were then repeatedly fed with marked food and the marked faeces were searched for in the defecation sites. Of 260 markers, 72 were recovered from 24 different cats. Defecation sites were frequented by up to 15 individuals. Soil samples were also examined in order to detect the presence of T. gondii using real-time PCR. The entire study area was then sampled according to cat density and vegetation cover type. Only three of 55 samples were positive and all came from defecation sites. In a second series of observations, 16 defecation sites were sampled. Eight of 62 samples tested positive, originating in five defecation sites. Laboratory experiments using experimental seeding of soil showed that the inoculated dose that can be detected in 50% of assays equals 100–1000 oocysts/g, depending on the strain. This study shows that high concentrations of oocysts can be detected in soil samples using molecular methods and suggests that spatial distribution of contamination areas is highly heterogeneous. Positive samples were only found in some of the defecation sites, signifying that at-risk points for human and animal infection may be very localised.

Friday 11 April 2014

Cats and habitat fragmentation affecting distribution of small mammals

Baker, P. J., Ansell, R. J., Dodds, P. A., Webber, C. E., & Harris, S. (2003). Factors affecting the distribution of small mammals in an urban area. Mammal review, 33(1), 95-100.

We investigated the distribution of a range of small mammal species in five urban habitats in north-west Bristol: residential gardens, woodlands, allotment gardens, scrub and a cemetery. Wood mouse Apodemus sylvaticus abundance in residential gardens was negatively related to the abundance of cats and the distance to the nearest patch of natural or seminatural vegetation. These results suggest that urban small mammal populations may be limited by predation and habitat fragmentation, although the effects of the latter may be offset by the availability of good quality gardens

All dogs are a threat to kiwi

from www.doc.govt.nz

Threats to Northland brown kiwi

Kowhai, a dead Northland brown kiwi
Northland’s very own Northland brown kiwi live around the region—for some of us, they’re right next door. This is fantastic! But it’s only part of the story. In other parts of New Zealand, kiwi live to be 40–65 years old. In Northland the average age is just 14.

The greatest cause of kiwi deaths in Northland is dogs

Luckily, this issue is easily solved, as people are the key. What you do, whether you own a dog or not, will make a difference.

Not my dog? Ma te kuri ka mate te kiwi

DOC Whangarei kiwi rangers Pete
Graham and Sue Bell with the many
kiwi killed by dogs
All dogs, regardless of training, size, breed and temperament, are a threat to kiwi.
Farm dogs, hunting dogs, visiting dogs and pets are equally attracted to kiwi. They may not mean to kill them, but kiwi are extremely easily crushed by a dog. Kiwi don’t have a sternum (breastbone), so their rib cage is very vulnerable. A dog can kill a kiwi by picking it up gently in its mouth, or by giving it a playful push with its muzzle. A dog that has never killed anything before and has shown no sign of aggression is quite capable of killing a kiwi.

Kiwi are chased because they smell fantastic to dogs—and because kiwi run away from the threat. They become an ideal target for any dog. And what might start as one accidental encounter can quickly become a habit.

The only way to avoid dogs killing kiwi is to stop kiwi and dogs meeting.

This means all dogs, wherever they are from and whoever they belong to, including dogs trained to avoid kiwi or other birds.

Where our kiwi live

Northland brown kiwi live in some surprising places! While they prefer damp gullies in native forest and dense shrubland, they are also found in plantation forest, rough pasture, around wetlands, and in shrubland with lots of gorse or blackberry.

The birds generally have multiple daytime shelters comprising burrows, fallen nīkau fronds, hollow logs, tight vegetation and slash from land-clearing or forest harvest. They will also roost on the edge of roads or bush and can be found running along or across roads at night, and through properties and sections. One of these could be your property, or your neighbour’s!

How to help our kiwi

As a dog owner/minder you need to ensure dogs are:

  • Contained on your property, so there is no chance of them wandering.
  • On a lead when walking.
  • Permitted when hunting.
  • Bird aversion trained, wherever possible.

Dogs should also be:

  • Registered with the local district council.
  • Neutered if you don’t intend to breed from them. Unwanted dogs should go to new homes where they will be well cared for and controlled, or taken to the SPCA.

Each year, hundreds of Northland dogs are trained to avoid kiwi, should they meet them. Although this training cannot guarantee a dog won’t harm kiwi, it makes a big difference for many dogs and helps owners and minders understand dogs’ behaviour around birds.

The dogs that benefit the most from aversion training are farm and hunting dogs that are required to work in or around kiwi habitat. If you’re a hunter using dogs, you’ll need a certificate showing that your dog has been on a bird aversion training course in order to get a hunting permit in or around kiwi areas. Contact your nearest Department of Conservation office for information about aversion training opportunities.

But I don’t have a dog

Reporting wandering dogs or dogs that seem to roam or be ‘running loose’ is critical, especially in, around and near areas where kiwi live. Report the dog as quickly as possible and provide a good description of it.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Feral cats on Stewart Island and their effects on kakapo

Karl, B. J., & Best, H. A. (1982). Feral cats on Stewart Island; their foods, and their effects on kakapo. New Zealand journal of zoology, 9(2), 287-293.

The foods of feral house cats (Felis catus) on Stewart Island were determined by examining 229 scats collected during surveys of the distribution and numbers of kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), an endangered ground-parrot species. Rats occurred in 93% of the scats, birds in 44. 1%, wetas (large orthopterans) in 26.2%, and lizards in 24.0%. Twelve (70.6%) of the 17 species of birdswere native. Kakapo remains were found in 6 (5.1%) of the 118 scats collected from areas where kakapo have been recorded.

Monday 7 April 2014

An evaluation of the biological control of the feral cat

Howell, P.G. 1984. An evaluation of the biological control of the feral cat Felis catus (Linnaeus, 1758). Acta Zoologica Fennica, 172: 111-113.

Conditions in the population of feral cats on Marion Island, to the southeast of South Africa, approached the optimal for the release of a feline parvovirus for biological control. The introduction of feline panleucopenia virus into the population in 1977 is described, together with the methods used to monitor the effect of the virus. Studies on population density showed a conservatively estimated reduction of 80% over the following 5 years.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Black wolves in Italy

The occurrence of black-coated individuals in wolf Canis lupus Linnaeus, 1758 populations is not surprising itself, but their presence in populations recovering from a severe numerical decline has been considered a possible sign of crossbreeding with the domestic dog. In the northern Apennines (Italy), black wolves occur at a non-negligible frequency. In a 3300 km2 area, 22% of wolves observed and 23% of all dead wolves found were represented by animals with a completely black coat. One ‘black’ wolf belonging to the studied population was analysed by a set of microsatellite loci, and no trace of hybridization was found in its ancestry. This result induced us to consider the occurrence of a black phenotype in this area possibly derived from a natural combination of wolf alleles in coat colour determining genes, and not necessarily as the result of crossbreeding with the domestic form.

Read more about canine hybidisation and gene introgression

Introgressive hybridization between dogs and wolves in Italy

Verardi, A., Lucchini, V., & Randi, E. (2006). Detecting introgressive hybridization between free‐ranging domestic dogs and wild wolves (Canis lupus) by admixture linkage disequilibrium analysis. Molecular Ecology, 15(10), 2845-2855.

Occasional crossbreeding between free-ranging domestic dogs and wild wolves (Canis lupus) has been detected in some European countries by mitochondrial DNA sequencing and genotyping unlinked microsatellite loci. Maternal and unlinked genomic markers, however, might underestimate the extent of introgressive hybridization, and their impacts on the preservation of wild wolf gene pools. In this study, we genotyped 220 presumed Italian wolves, 85 dogs and 7 known hybrids at 16 microsatellites belonging to four different linkage groups (plus four unlinked microsatellites). Population clustering and individual assignments were performed using a Bayesian procedure implemented in structure 2.1, which models the gametic disequilibrium arising between linked loci during admixtures, aiming to trace hybridization events further back in time and infer the population of origin of chromosomal blocks. Results indicate that (i) linkage disequilibrium was higher in wolves than in dogs; (ii) 11 out of 220 wolves (5.0%) were likely admixed, a proportion that is significantly higher than one admixed genotype in 107 wolves found previously in a study using unlinked markers; (iii) posterior maximum-likelihood estimates of the recombination parameter r revealed that introgression in Italian wolves is not recent, but could have continued for the last 70 (± 20) generations, corresponding to approximately 140–210 years. Bayesian clustering showed that, despite some admixture, wolf and dog gene pools remain sharply distinct (the average proportions of membership to wolf and dog clusters were Qw = 0.95 andQd = 0.98, respectively), suggesting that hybridization was not frequent, and that introgression in nature is counteracted by behavioural or selective constraints.

Read more about canine hybidisation and gene introgression

Saturday 5 April 2014

Mesopredator release and toxoplasmosis

Hollings, T., Jones, M., Mooney, N., & McCallum, H. (2013). Wildlife disease ecology in changing landscapes: Mesopredator release and toxoplasmosis.International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife, 2, 110-118.

Changing ecosystem dynamics are increasing the threat of disease epidemics arising in wildlife populations. Several recent disease outbreaks have highlighted the critical need for understanding pathogen dynamics, including the role host densities play in disease transmission. In Australia, introduced feral cats are of immense concern because of the risk they pose to native wildlife through predation and competition. They are also the only known definitive host of the coccidian parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, the population-level impacts of which are unknown in any species. Australia’s native wildlife have not evolved in the presence of cats or their parasites, and feral cats may be linked with several native mammal declines and extinctions. In Tasmania there is emerging evidence that feral cat populations are increasing following wide-ranging and extensive declines in the apex predator, the Tasmanian devil, from a consistently fatal transmissible cancer.

We assess whether feral cat density is associated with the seroprevalence of T. gondii in native wildlife to determine whether an increasing population of feral cats may correspond to an increased level of risk to naive native intermediate hosts. We found evidence that seroprevalence of T. gondii in Tasmanian pademelons was lower in the north-west of Tasmania than in the north-east and central regions where cat density was higher. Also, samples obtained from road-killed animals had significantly higher seroprevalence of T. gondii than those from culled individuals, suggesting there may be behavioural differences associated with infection. In addition, seroprevalence in different trophic levels was assessed to determine whether position in the food-web influences exposure risk. Higher order carnivores had significantly higher seroprevalence than medium-sized browser species. The highest seroprevalence observed in an intermediate host was 71% in spotted-tailed quolls (Dasyurus maculatus), the largest mammalian mesopredator, in areas of low cat density. Mesopredator release of cats may be a significant issue for native species conservation, potentially affecting the population viability of many endangered species.

Thursday 3 April 2014

Reducing feral cat threats to native wildlife in Hawai`i

Hess, S. C., H. Hansen, and P. C. Banko. 2007. Reducing feral cat threats to native wildlife in Hawai`i. Hawai`i Cooperative Studies Unit Technical Report HCSU-010. University of Hawai`i at Hilo. 102 pp., incl. 14 figures, & 19 tables.

We documented the diet of feral cats (Felis catus) on Kīlauea and Mauna Loa within Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park (HAVO), determined the incidence of three feline diseases on Mauna Kea, studied feral cat home range, developed and tested trap-signaling devices, tested food-based baits and attractants, analyzed feral cat population dynamics using genetic techniques, and developed an adaptive strategy for reducing predation on endangered Hawaiian birds.

We documented the diet of feral cats by analyzing the contents of 42 digestive tracts from Kīlauea and Mauna Loa in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. Small mammals, invertebrates, and birds were the most common prey types consumed by feral cats. Birds occurred in 27.8–29.2% of digestive tracts. The total number of bird, small mammal, and invertebrate prey differed between Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. On Mauna Loa, significantly more (89%) feral cats consumed small mammals, primarily rodents, than on Kīlauea Volcano (50%). Mice (Mus musculus) were the major component of the feral cat diet on Mauna Loa, whereas Orthoptera were the major component of the diet on Kīlauea. We recovered a mandible set, feathers, and bones of an endangered Hawaiian Petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis) from a digestive tract from Mauna Loa. This specimen represents the first well-documented endangered seabird to be recovered from the digestive tract of a feral cat in Hawai`i and suggests that feral cats prey on this species.

We determined prevalence to feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) antibodies, feline leukemia virus (FeLV) antigen, and Toxoplasma gondii antibodies in feral cats on Mauna Kea Hawai`i from April 2002 to May 2004. Six of 68 (8.8%) and 11/68 (16.2%) were antibody positive to FIV and antigen positive for FeLV, respectively; 25/67 (37.3%) were seropositive to T. gondii. Antibodies to FeLV and T. gondii occurred in all age and sex classes, but FIV occurred only in adult males. Evidence of previous or current infections with two of these infectious agents was detected in eight of 64 cats (12.5%). Despite exposure to these infectious agents, feral cats remain abundant throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

Feral cats in dry subalpine woodland of Mauna Kea, Hawai`i, live in low density and exhibit some of the largest reported home ranges in the literature. While 95% fixed kernel home range estimates for three females averaged 772 ha, four males averaged 1,418 ha, and one male maintained a home range of 2,050 ha. Mean daily movement rates between sexes overlapped widely and did not differ significantly (P = 0.083). Log-transformed 95% kernel home ranges for males were significantly larger than those of females (P = 0.024), but 25% kernel home ranges for females were larger than those of males (P = 0.017). Moreover, logtransformed home ranges of males were also significantly larger than those of females in this and seven other studies from the Pacific region (P = 0.044). Feral cats present a major threat to endangered Hawaiian birds, but knowledge of their ecology can be used for management by optimizing trap spacing and creating buffer zones around conservation areas.

Frequent checks of live traps require enormous amounts of labor and add human scents associated with repeated monitoring which may reduce capture efficiency. To reduce efforts and increase efficiency, we developed a trap-signaling device with long-distance reception, durability in adverse weather, and ease of transport, deployment, and use. Modifications from previous designs include a normally-open magnetic switch and a mounting configuration to maximize reception. The system weighed < 225 g, was effective ≤ 17.1 km, and failed in < 1% of trap-nights. Employing this system, researchers and wildlife managers may reduce the amount of effort checking traps while improving the welfare of trapped animals.

Successful feral cat control programs require effective baits and lures. Non-targets may interfere with trapping efforts by rapidly consuming bait before feral cats encounter traps, necessitating frequent bait replacement. We compared the effectiveness of baits and lures by analyzing capture rates of feral cats and non-targets and monitoring animal visits to bait stations with remotely-triggered cameras. We tested four different baits and attractants: canned cat food, sardines, catnip, and a bait sausage that we formulated from pork and fat. We trapped for a total of 3,389 trap nights and captured 35 feral cats. There were 323 incidences of trap interferences, reducing the effective trap nights (ETN) to 3,225. The primary cause of trap interference was feral pigs rolling over traps (n = 185, 57.3% of interferences). The primary non-target species captured were small Indian mongooses (n = 74, 22.9% of interferences). Overall, more cats and mongooses were captured using sardines, although the catch frequencies were not dependent on the bait type used. We obtained photographs of 1,476 small mammals at the bait stations. Mongooses were the principal mammals photographed (n = 939, 69.5% of pictures). We also obtained 398 photographs of rats (29.5%) and 9 (0.7%) of mice. Feral cats were photographed only 5 (0.4%) times. We found strong differences between mongooses, rodents, and cats photographed at the four bait types. Sardines were the most visited bait type (n = 641, 47.4% of photographs). Pork sausage and cat food accounted for 383 (28.3%) and 322 (23.8%) visits while catnip had only 67 (5.0%) visits. Feral cats were photographed only at sardine bait. Mongooses were attracted primarily to  sardines (49.3%). Pork sausage was the most attractive bait to rats, accounting for 44.5% of photographs. Due to the high rate of non-target interference, other attractants need to be tested for successful feral cat control programs.

Population genetics can provide information about the demographics and dynamics of invasive species that is beneficial for developing effective control strategies. We studied the population genetics of feral cats on Hawai`i Island by microsatellite analysis to evaluate genetic diversity and population structure, assess gene flow and connectivity among three populations, identify potential source populations, characterize population dynamics, and evaluate sex-biased dispersal. High genetic diversity, low structure, and high number of migrants per generation supported high gene flow that was not limited spatially. Migration rates revealed that most migration occurred out of West Mauna Kea. Effective population size estimates indicated increasing cat populations despite control efforts. Despite high gene flow, relatedness estimates declined significantly with increased geographic distance and Bayesian assignment tests revealed the presence of three population clusters. Genetic structure and relatedness estimates indicated male-biased dispersal. Mauna Kea may be a source population that can be targeted for control. However, recolonization seems likely given the great dispersal ability that may not be inhibited by barriers such as lava flows. Genetic monitoring will be necessary to assess the effectiveness of future control efforts.

Despite the long history of feral cats in Hawai`i, there has been little research to provide strategies to improve control programs and reduce depredation on endangered species. Our objective was to develop a predictive model to determine how landscape features on Mauna Kea such as habitat, elevation, and proximity to roads affect the number of feral cats captured at each trap. We used log-link generalized linear models and QAICc model ranking criteria to determine the effect of these factors. We found that the number of cats captured per trap was related to trapping effort, habitat type, and whether traps were located on the West or North Slope of Mauna Kea. We recommend an adaptive management strategy to minimize trapping interference by non-target small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) with toxicants, to focus trapping efforts in māmane (Sophora chrysophylla) habitat on the West slope of Mauna Kea, and to cluster traps near others that have previously captured multiple cats.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Why do people feed stray cats?

Coleman, G., & Coffey, M. Food for thought–why do people feed stray cats?.
What cats are we talking about?
- Semi-owned cats are stray cats that are fed by people who do not consider themselves to own the cat.

What did we research?
- Australia wide online survey
– Demographics
– Feeding stray cats (where, how many, how long etc.)

– Attitudes:
– about feeding stray cats
– about important others’ view of their feeding stray cats
– about perceived control over feeding stray cats

What we found:
– Semi-owners
* Most are women
* Most are middle aged or older
* Most feed one cat daily or every few days, in their home or within their property and have done so for several months or more
* Most cats that semi-owners feed are able to be picked up or at least patted
* Can also be pet owners

– Attitudes correlated with semi-ownership:
* Benevolent attitudes about the outcomes of feeding for the cat
* Positive attitudes about outcomes for the person doing the feeding
* Belief of support from important others to semi-own

– We can predict semi-ownership based primarily on beliefs about positive outcomes of feeding (behavioural beliefs)
* These beliefs outweigh any influence other factors

Why is this knowledge important?
– Semi-ownership:
* It’s a result of benevolent beliefs
* Semi-owned cats are in good body condition
* Many semi-owned cats are tolerant of human interaction
* But….
- Semi-owned cats are in the main un-desexed
- There are estimated to be 500 000 stray cats in Victoria alone
- semi-owned cats aid in maintaining this
- Semi-owned cats have much shorter lives than responsibly owned cats
- Semi-owned cats suffer with disease and injury
– Semi-owned cats make up a significant proportion of shelter admissions
– 64,000++ unwanted cats are admitted to shelters annually in Australia
* 60-74% of admitted cats are euthanized

Food for thought….

- Nearly ¼ of Victorians semi-own cats
- We know benevolent beliefs drive this behaviour
- We know many semi-owned cats have poor welfare
 - Challenging/changing beliefs an important part of effecting change
– Could people’s benevolent attitudes be better directed to benefit semi-owned
cat welfare?
* What are the barriers to taking the next steps (responsible ownership)?
– Continuing education on semi-owned cat welfare

Are feral cats responsible of the current decline of tropical marsupials in Australia? Two points of view

Fisher, D.O., Johnson, C.N., Lawes, M.J., Fritz, S.A., McCallum, H., Blomberg, S.P., VanDerWal, J., Abbott, B., Frank, A., Legge, S.,Letnic, M., Thomas, C.R., Fisher, A., Gordon, I.J. & Kutt, A. (2014) The current decline of tropical marsupials in Australia: is history repeating? Global Ecology and Biogeography, 23, 181–190.

A third of all modern (after 1500) mammal extinctions (24/77) are Australian species. These extinctions have been restricted to southern Australia, predominantly in species of ‘critical weight range’ (35–5500 g) in drier climate zones. Introduced red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) that prey on species in this range are often blamed. A new wave of declines is now affecting a globally significant proportion of marsupial species (19 species) in the fox-free northern tropics. We aim to test plausible causes of recent declines in range and determine if mechanisms differ between current tropical declines and past declines, which were in southern (non-tropical) regions.

Australian continent

We used multiple regression and random forest models to analyse traits that were associated with declines in species range, and compare variables associated with past extinctions in the southern zones with current tropical (northern) declines.

The same two key variables, body mass and habitat structure, were associated with proportion-of-decline in range throughout the continent, but the form of relationships differs with latitude. In the south, medium-sized species in open habitats of lower rainfall were most likely to decline. In the tropics, small species that occupy open vegetation with moderate rainfall (savanna) are now experiencing the most severe declines. Throughout the continent, large-bodied species and those in structurally complex habitats (rainforest) are secure.

Main conclusions
Our results indicate that there is no mid-sized ‘critical weight range’ in the north. Because foxes are absent from the tropics, we suggest that northern Australian marsupial declines are associated with predation by feral cats (Felis catus) exacerbated by reduced ground level vegetation in non-rainforest habitats. To test this, we recommend experiments to remove cats from some locations where tropical mammals are threatened. Our results show that comparative analysis can help to diagnose potential causes of multi-species decline.

Woinarski, J. C. Z. (2014). Critical‐weight‐range marsupials in northern Australia are declining: a commentary on Fisher et al.(2014)‘The current decline of tropical marsupials in Australia: is history repeating?’. Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Many mammal species are declining in parts of Australia's tropical savannas, for reasons that are not yet well defined. A recent paper (Fisher et al., 2014, Global Ecology and Biogeography, 23, 181–190) suggested that the primary cause is predation by feral cats, with the main evidence presented being a purported over-representation of small species amongst the marsupials that have contracted in range (‘small body size signifies high current extinction risk’). However, a review here of the information presented in that paper shows that no marsupial species smaller than 100 g has shown range contraction in northern Australia, and that most (15 of 17) declines are of species in the ‘critical weight range’ (35 g to 5.5 kg).

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Seroprevalence of toxoplasmosis in pregnant women in Annaba, Algeria

Messerer, L., Bouzbid, S., Gourbdji, E., Mansouri, R., & Bachi, F. (2014). Séroprévalence de la toxoplasmose chez les femmes enceintes dans la wilaya d’Annaba, Algérie. Revue d'Épidémiologie et de Santé Publique.

Seroprevalence of toxoplasmosis in pregnant women in Annaba, Algeria

The aim of the study was to estimate the seroprevalence and risk factors of toxoplasmosis in pregnant women in the department of Annaba, Algeria.


We performed a cross-sectional study with analytical purposes. The study was collaboration between the laboratory of Parasitology-Mycology, Faculty of Medicine of Annaba and Parasite Biology Department at the Pasteur Institute of Algeria. A total of 1028 pregnant women who underwent prenatal diagnosis/visit were included over a period of 4 years from January 2006 to December 2009. Immunoglobulin G and M were assayed, using the microparticle enzyme method. The avidity test was used to determine the date of contamination according to age of pregnancy. Search for the parasite was made by inoculation of the placenta and cord blood in white mice. The study compared mother-to-child serological profiles using Western Blot (WB) IgG and IgM. Direct (not well-cooked meat) and indirect (presence of cat, gardening) indicators were recorded to search for parasite exposure.

ResultsSeroprevalence was 47.8 % (95 % CI: 44.8 to 51.0) and the rate of active toxoplasmosis was 1.1 % (95 % CI 0.6 to 1.8). According to their immune status, this was the first serology for 41 % (CI95 %: 38.0–44.0) of women; 12 % (CI95 %: 10.5–14.6) of primiparous women had only one serology test during their entire pregnancy. Major risk factors were consumption of poorly-cooked meat and exposure to cats.

Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy is a serious issue and an effective prevention program is needed.


Position du problème
Le but de l’étude est d’estimer la séroprévalence de la toxoplasmose chez la femme enceinte dans la wilaya d’Annaba et d’identifier les facteurs de risque liés à la contamination.

MéthodesIl s’agit d’une étude transversale à visée analytique. L’étude a été réalisée entre le laboratoire de parasitologie mycologie de la faculté de médecine d’Annaba et le service de biologie parasitaire de l’institut Pasteur d’Algérie, sur une période de quatre ans et a porté sur un échantillon représentatif de 1028 gestantes qui se sont présentées dans le cadre d’un bilan prénatal. La sérologie a été mesurée par la recherche d’immunoglobulines G et M, par la méthode de microparticule enzym assay. La datation de la contamination toxoplasmique par rapport à l’âge de la grossesse a été réalisée par le test d’avidité. La recherche du parasite a été faite par inoculation du placenta et le sang du cordon à la souris blanche. L’étude des profils sérologiques comparés mère-enfant a été faite par Western Blot(WB), IgG et IgM. La recherche des facteurs de risques liés à la contamination a été faite par l’analyse des indicateurs directes (viande mal cuite) et indirectes (présence de chat dans l’entourage, notion de jardinage) d’exposition au parasite.

Les examens sérologiques ont permis de trouver une séroprévalence de 47,8 % (IC 95 % : 44,8–51,0) de gestantes immunisées et 1,1 % (IC 95 % : 0,6–1,8) de toxoplasmose évolutive. Selon le statut immunitaire, 41 % des femmes (IC 95 % : 38,0–44,0) ont bénéficié d’un examen sérologique pour la première fois. La proportion des femmes primipares qui a bénéficié d’un seul examen sérologique au cours de toute la grossesse était de 12 % (IC 95 % : 10,5–14,6). Les facteurs de risque identifiés étaient la consommation de viande mal cuite et la présence de chat dans l’entourage.

La toxoplasmose reste une affection particulièrement grave quand elle survient au cours de la grossesse ce qui impose la mise en place d’un programme de prévention basé sur la surveillance sérologique des femmes enceintes à risque et la sensibilisation sur le respect des règles hygiéno-diététiques.

Eradication of cats from Macquarie Island

Robinson, S. A., & Copson, G. R. (2014). Eradication of cats (Felis catus) from subantarctic Macquarie Island. Ecological Management & Restoration 15: 34–40. doi: 10.1111/emr.12073.

A feral cat roams among baby penguins on Macquarie Island.
Photo: Geoff Copson/ Tasmanian NPWS

The feral Cat (Felis catus) population on Macquarie Island was targeted for eradication between 1996 and 2002, with 761 cats captured during this period. After 22 years of cat control from 1974 integrated with control programmes for other pests, effort intensified for 2 years before a dedicated eradication programme began in 1998. The primary knock-down for the eradication used cage trapping and shooting, with most surviving cats captured with leg-hold traps. A total of 6298 field days and 216 574 trap nights were recorded in this operation. Factors contributing to the success of the programme included extensive planning, increased staff numbers at critical times, better access to remote areas of the island, introduction of leg-hold traps, sufficient operational funding and good collaboration between government agencies operating on the island. The programme would have benefited from earlier deployment of detector dogs and better posteradication monitoring of a broader range of native species impacted by cats. The successful eradication of cats from Macquarie Island, being the second largest achieved to date, provides valuable experience for cat eradication attempts on other large remote islands. This programme relied on ground-based techniques with minimal use of poisons and provides possible options for sites where broad-scale poisoning, or where aerial distribution of poisons, cannot be used.

More on Macquarie island cats
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