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.
- 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.