SEO calls for action on feral cat colonies as over 60 Cory’s Shearwaters are found killed and half eaten in El Hierro

There are serious calls today in influential circles for action to be taken against colonies of wild cats. We all know that such cats are a particular concern for some, and there is routinely outrage at suggestions that something must be done because that something is usually interpreted as a cull, whether or not that was actually meant. As with controversy over the water-based shows in Loro Parque, however, such people only see what is of immediate interest to them, and fail to see or actually reject the evidence that they are harming other species which have an equal right to life and safety.

Now, in El Hierro, the remains of over sixty pardelas have been found, killed and half eaten by cats … I am not posting photos but to say the Sociedad Española de Ornitología (Spanish Ornithological Institute) is annoyed is seriously to understate the anger. They and many other environmentalists are calling for a solution to these abandoned creatures and the damage they cause to other species, not just birds but lizards too, animals that have just as much right to life and indeed perhaps even more right to life in these islands where they are autochthonous species.

The SEO says that it has denounced the killing of the Cory’s shearwaters in the El Hierro Biosphere Reserve and Natura 2000 Network area, and now formally calls on the Canarian Government to take concrete steps to find solutions to prevent these colonies forming and thus stop one of the most serious threats to birds and other native fauna on the islands where cats have been shown to be responsible for around 15% of modern bird, mammal and reptile extinctions on island territories worldwide.

SEO’s delegate in the Canaries, Yarci Acosta, says “we cannot ignore such an important threat to the island’s biodiversity as feral cats, we need to take decisions in accordance with the reality of our ecosystems and the threats that affect them. We urge the competent authorities to take the necessary measures to protect the biodiversity of the Canary Islands”. Their recommendations include:

  • Domestic cats must always be kept under controlled conditions that prevent their free access to non-domestic areas. Their proper identification must be required by law with control systems to ensure compliance
  • Populations or colonies of cats in urban areas which pose a risk to biodiversity should not only not be encouraged but such animals must be registered, and those responsible for managing the colony made responsible in law for guaranteed mechanisms to prevent their impact on native biodiversity
  • Due to the disproportionate risk of impact in the smaller islands with high biological interest, it is advisable that feral cats should not only be controlled but gradually disappear in accordance with the regulations that apply to safeguard protected areas and species
  • All feral cats on islands and other areas of significant biodiversity should be removed from the natural environment by appropriate means and under animal welfare conditions
  • Awareness campaigns should be run to explain to people the environmental impact of cats and the need to keep them in conditions that not only support biodiversity conservation but also reduce the effects of neglect.

The SEO is pretty emphatic and unequivocal in what it is saying. It is calling for the development of regulations to promote understanding of the fact that cats must not be allowed to colonise in order to avoid threats to biodiversity as well as to ensure the welfare of the cats themselves. This will go down like the proverbial lead ballon in some parts of Tenerife but plenty of people out there love nature, and a wide of range of species, and they are not going to put up any more with people favouring one non-native species that has posed and continues to pose a sometimes existential risk to indigenous fauna in these islands.

The SEO’s statement is HERE. They are not going to let this go. Thankfully.