Feral cats are domestic cats abandoned and lost in the wild. In Australia, the government wants 2 million feral cats dead by 2020 in an effort to save native species. ( Beverley Goodwin | Flickr )
There are roughly 6 million feral cats roaming freely around Australia and the government wants a third of them dead by 2020, officials revealed.
Feral cats are domestic cats abandoned and lost in the wild. In 2015, the Australian government announced plans to cull the population of feral cats in the country in an effort to save threatened and endangered native species.
At the time, animal rights watchdog People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals criticized the policy and called it "horrifically cruel."
Now, the government has rolled out the strategy by feeding feral cats with "delicious but deadly" poisonous food. The plan is to kill 2 million of them by next year.
How Feral Cats Will Be Killed Off
The method used to kill off feral cats is to feed them with poisoned sausages made up of kangaroo meat, chicken fat, herbs, spices, and a poison called 1080.
Airplanes drop these poisoned sausages into areas with high concentrations of feral cats. These poisoned sausages are so deadly that the feral cats die within 15 minutes of consuming them.
In some parts of Australia, including the northeastern of Queensland, CNN reported that a council has even offered $7 bounty per feral cat scalp.
Some farmers and hunters shoot these feral cats. The Royal Melbourne Institute said 83 percent of feral cats have been deliberately killed using guns and traps.
The government has already pledged $5 million to support groups that can readily target feral cats. When the plan was first launched, however, no one was certain about the population of these animals in the country.
The population of feral cats was estimated to be at 18 million utmost, but critics such as conservation ecologist Tim Doherty from Deakin University say this was a "gross overestimation."
Why Australia Wants To Kill Millions Of Feral Cats
Why are feral cats being targeted? Officials say feral cats, which were introduced in Australia in the 17th century via boats from England, are killers.
Although feral cats are under the same species of domestic cats, they live in the wild where they hunt their food. The population for these animals has since ballooned and it is estimated that they can be found 99.8 percent all over Australia.
Expert Gregory Andrews from the commission of threatened species explained that feral cats are "the singlemost greatest threat" to Australia's native species because these animals have already driven 20 mammals to extinction, including the rare burrowing bettong.
Some of the species under threat from feral cats include the brush-tailed rabbit-rat and the rat-like golden bandicoot.
Animal Cruelty Or Necessary To Save Endangered Wildlife Species?
The Australian government's plan to kill off feral cats received intense backlash when it was first announced four years ago.
Doherty said he agrees that feral cats are a threat to wildlife but he believes killing off feral cats is based on "shaky science."
Doherty said merely killing a cat does not save a bird or a mammal. He believes the feral cats are being used as distraction and the government has set aside more urgent matters such as habitat loss caused by expansion, mining and logging.
"We also need to have a more holistic approach and address all threats to biodiversity," explained Doherty.
Reports from Australia's Department of the Environment and Energy revealed that feral cats kill at least 1 million native birds and 1.7 million reptiles every year for food.
With that, Andrews explained that the government is not culling cats for the sake of it nor is it because the government hates cats.
Meanwhile, former environment minister Josh Frydenberg emphasized the reason to kill off feral cats.
"Feral cats are a real menace and a very significant threat to the health of our ecosystem," said Frydenberg.