BirdLife Australia at the Federal Inquiry on Feral and Domestic Cats

This morning our Urban Bird Program Managers, Dr. Monica Awasthy and Dr. Holly Parsons gave evidence at the federal inquiry into the problem of feral and domestic cats in Australia. 

Overall cats are estimated to take 377 million birds every year and their predation rates are in their highest concentration in residential areas. This is concerning as urban spaces are used by a huge diversity of birds, around 600 Australian native species, including 71 state or federally listed species.

But cat owners and bird lovers are not mutually exclusive terms! You can own and love your companion cats as well as providing a safe place for wildlife. Zoos Victoria and the RSPCA have a 'Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife' Project that we collaborate on. This project provides cat owners with tips and tricks on containing cats and keeping them healthy and happy on their own property. 

Our opening statement at the inquiry given by Dr. Awasthy is below:

Thank you for inviting us to participate in this inquiry into the problem of feral and domestic cats. BirdLife Australia is the peak body for native bird conservation and science in Australia with a national network of staff, volunteers and supporters. Together, Dr Parsons and I manage BirdLife’s Urban Bird Program which conducts research, conservation and education projects that engage local communities, government, industry, and citizen scientists in conserving their local bird populations. 

While we don’t undertake on-ground actions around cats ourselves, our partners do. Our role is in monitoring birds and reducing the impact of cat predation on bird populations by working directly with local governing authorities that manage cat populations. Starting with the Greater Sydney Region, we have been developing conservation strategies for 54 priority bird species. In broad consultation, that process has identified cats as a mid-high level threat for at least half of those birds, however local councils have identified several barriers to effective enforcement of cat management strategies.

We also engage with the public on responsible cat ownership in collaboration with organisations like Zoos Victoria and the RSPCA, and in building social licence for their management through developing an appreciation for local bird life and the threats they face amongst the general public. 

In our submission, we mainly examined domestic cats – pet, roaming and stray – but acknowledge the huge toll feral cat predation has on birds in rural and natural areas. We call for the development of a national framework for the management of cats, which includes mechanisms for cooperation and implementation between all tiers of government. Our 13 recommendations were broken down into 3 broad categories including 1. Strengthening and aligning federal and state policies and regulations with appropriate resourcing for enforcement, 2. Taking a holistic approach to best practice management of cats through registration, desexing, containment and importantly exclusion in priority areas, and 3. Educating and engaging the community to ensure that people understand the threat that cats pose and care for them responsibly.


 

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