Monday , March 20 2023

Saba’s feral cats need to be stopped attacking seabirds

The Daily Herald reports today that research by the Institute for Resources and Ecosystem Studies IMARES of the Wageningen University has shown that there are practical solutions to stop the killing of seabirds and the red-billed tropic bird by feral cats.
Earlier research of IMARES and the Saba Conservation Foundation has shown that particularly wild cats eat the chicks from the nests of seabirds. This is especially worrisome in the case of the endangered red-billed tropic bird which nests in Saba’s steep cliffs. Red-bill tropic birds mostly live at sea and only come on shore to nest. Saba is one of the few nesting areas in the world of this rare, majestic bird.

IMARES was asked to analyse the problem in Saba and to come up with possible solutions. The analysis showed that there are practical solutions and that a majority of the local population supports measures against feral cats, including a mandatory sterilisation of domestic cats and the removal of feral cats from the seabird nesting colonies.

IMARES found that the feral cat in Saba has opportunistic eating habits: the cats prefer eating chicks of the seabirds from the dry coastal zone above hunting for rats who live in the rain forest above the 450 meter zone. The highest concentration of feral cats lives at the local garbage disposal area where there is a lot of food, although not very healthy for the cats. IMARES suggested reducing the food provisions for these cats by burning trash on a daily basis or by hermetically closing- off the area.
The people of Saba have been asked their opinion on a number of measures, IMARES stated in a press release on Wednesday. Between 70 and 80 per cent of the respondents supported specific measures such as restrictions on the keeping of domestic cats and an obligatory neutering of cats. Close to 80 per cent of the respondents supported the removal of feral cats from the seabird nesting colonies. According to IMARES, the support of the population gives the local government ample room to take adequate measures against the feral cat problem.

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