Why Poisoned Sausages Fall From the Sky in Australia

An effort to cull 2M cats is underway
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 26, 2019 8:23 AM CDT
Updated Apr 28, 2019 4:30 PM CDT
A feral cat catches and eats a crimson rosella bird at an unknown location in Australia.   (AP Photo/Department of the Environment, C. Potter)

(Newser) – People around the world were quick to oppose Australia's plan to cull 2 million feral cats by 2020, with many going online and signing petitions in hopes of saving their furry friends. That was 2015. With 2020 approaching, Jessica Camille Aguirre takes a long look at where things stand for the New York Times—and notes that most of the outrage came from beyond Australia's shores, with natives more fully recognizing the havoc that's being wreaked on their native creatures by non-native cats. "I'm not prepared to sit back and let endangered species go extinct because I don't want to kill any cats," ecologist Katherine Moseby tells Aguirre, who reports Moseby and her husband have invented culling methods. One of them involves a robot that can spot a passing cat and "eject poison that the cat will later ingest when it grooms itself."

Australia's cats now number 2 million to 6 million and occupy 99.8% of the country, where estimates peg their annual kills at 377 million birds and 649 million reptiles. Some 34 mammal species have gone extinct since cats were introduced to the island around the 17th and 18th centuries; cats have been blamed in 22 of those cases. It's unclear how many cats have been killed since the plan was announced, but 211,560 are believed to have died in the first year—most as a result of hobbyist shooters, though traps and poisoned sausages (made of kangaroo meat and chicken fat and dropped from the air) are also used. It's not pleasant. Aguirre describes seeing the body of a cat slit open to reveal five meowing kittens, whose heads were then cut off. But Moseby maintains it's all about balance. "If you follow their line, you'll end up just with cats and cockroaches," she says. Read the full story here. (Read more cats stories.)

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