Pro bird or anti cat?

Gareth Morgan has creating a bit of a kerfuffle in New Zealand by going public with an education campaign about the dangers that cats place to our native birds. They are not alone in the destruction of habitat, eggs, chicks and adults, but cats are the only introduced predator that are kept as pets.

New Zealand was a bird paradise before waves of humans arrived from about 1000 years ago with our associated habitat destruction and pests. Our native birds had never developed predator defense mechanisms. That meant a trend towards being fat, drunk and flightless (rather like humanity right now). The plump Kereru, example above, feast on berries that ferment and make them tipsy, and when they fly it’s with plenty of distinctive wing flapping noise. They are amusingly vulnerable, and now largely protected from human harvesting.

I commend Gareth for going public with a campaign, and to see what he is trying to achieve I cannot recommend enough going to visit one or more of our accessible pest free sanctuaries which are either islands reached by ferry or enclosed within pest proof fences.

They are:

  • Tiri Tiri Matangi, which is a regular boat trip from Auckland and a great day out
  • Zelandia in Wellington, which is just before Karori and reasonably priced if you buy the annual passes
  • Kapiti Island, accessed by regular boat from Paraparaumu, which is 40 minutes North of Wellington. You can stay the night for the full experience, or just walk around and picnic.
  • The Sub Antarctic Islands – best accessible with  Heritage Expeditions.
  • Muangatautari, near Hamilton is a pest free fenced enclosure which I have not visited yet

Gareth has deliberately put himself out there by starting this debate, and an estmated 1.4 million cas in NZ, that’s a lot of upset owners. Hopefully this will cause many of them to think twice before getting another cat. In the meantime I’m glad we are not yet reframing the debate into Pro-Bird and Anti-Bird factions, or so let’s not frame it as Pro-Cat or Anti-Cat either.

Published by Lance Wiggs


5 replies on “Pro bird or anti cat?”

  1. I do wonder if he is biting off more than he can chew with this one. Media pick up on the ‘kill all cats’ part of it which he should have left out. Should have started with bells, keeping them indoors, targeting feral cats, and questioning whether people really need 6 cats.

    The rational counter argument seems to be that cats kill more bird predators (rats, weasels etc) than birds so are a net gain to the wildlife. This hasn’t been addressed from what I have seen.


  2. An interesting debate! Great to get it out there for discussion. One little amendment to your comments though, and an important one – cats aren’t the only introduced predator kept as pets that can have an impact on our native terrestrial fauna. Uncontrolled dogs are the single largest threat to our national emblem, the kiwi. A single dog can kill many kiwi in a very short space of time and the importance of keeping dogs in control and out of areas where kiwi are present should be acknowledged as well.


  3. I also recon he is treading into dangerous ground. Cats eat rats that eat birds and I bet they eat a lot more rats!! also its the debate of who was here first or the weakest deserves to live and be protected.
    I’m sure cats were around in the Egypt era, so who is older and the white man with motorbikes and Mustache’s were here in New Zealand second.


  4. Make it a requirement for domestic cats to wear bells on their collars. Shoot all non bell wearing cats.
    Job done!


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