In any discussion of predator control, cats are the elephant in the room, but ignoring them may be the worst option.
In October 2019 we posted comment about hedgehogs being “The Forgotten Predator”. Now it is time to consider if feral cats are “The Ignored Predator”. That cats are missing from New Zealand’s Predator Free 2050 aspiration is an anomaly that needs to be addressed. Is it a lack of ecological data, a lack of know-how or a lack of political will that is behind this exception?
A lack of ecological data cannot be the reason behind this omission because in 2016 a paper authored by Australian and New Zealand based research ecologists was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that clearly showed the impact that feral cats have on the loss of global biodiversity. Of contemporary vertebrate extinctions, invasive predators were implicated in almost 60%, and feral cats contributed to 60 (42%) out of those 142 extinctions.
Therefore, feral cats were directly connected to a quarter of the recent extinctions of vertebrate species. These numbers are also probably underestimates as the authors found a further 23 critically endangered species that were listed as “possibly extinct”.
What's in a Name?
The familiar saying "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" warns about the risks that come with trying to achieve more by challenging the status quo.