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27/09/2016, 21:00

What about the cats? Wellington announces plan to become first predator-free capital

Wellington has announced its plans to become the world's first predator-free capital, but an expert warns such plans shouldn't ignore cats, or more specifically, their owners.

The council has put forward a proposal which would limit the number of cats per household, and is calling for more micro chipping.

Wellington's city and regional councils, along with the environmentally focused Next Foundation, today announced how they would go about becoming predator-free in line with the national 2050 target.

It will be modelled on the success of neighbourhood trapping communities - in particular Crofton Downs Predator Free Community spearheaded by local resident Kelvin Hastie - and initially focus on eradicating rats and stoats from the Miramar Peninsula, where possums have already been dealt with.

However, management of cats and dogs is not included in the project, instead the councils say they are interested in people being responsible pet owners.

That's where Victoria University ecologist Wayne Linklater says the project may strike problems, because all predators will need to be controlled.

Wellington was introducing compulsory micro-chipping of cats, which would help identify where stray cats came from.

However, some people simply did not care for their cats and they therefore increased the stray and feral populations, which preyed on natives.

If mice and rats were removed, those cats might have to find another prey.

"The biggest problem is getting the support of the enormous diversity out there," Dr Linklater told NZ Newswire.

"The focus shouldn't be on cat behaviour, it should be on people's behaviour.

"Unless we do, some of these projects which start with great enthusiasm won't reach their aspirations and fall away.

"There's a lack of expertise in these organisations in social terms, in human terms, of making these things work. I wish them well."

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