Coastal Mandurah City, Australia: The scene of the massacre left only fragments of unseen corpses. The victim's chest was ripped apart and the heads mysteriously disappeared.
Claire Greenwell, a biologist at Murdoch University, joined five other local people. They set up a secret surveillance area overnight. A neighbor lends a mobile home to Greenwell as a base.
Their only goal is a cat .
Yes, a cat has repeatedly caused massacres in the Mandurah bird sanctuary . It is an area fenced off to attract lovely native gulls like Fairy Tern (Sternula nereis) to nest.
Gulls often do not nest near human habitation, but thanks to the hospitality of the inhabitants of Mandurah, they have begun to come here and breed. It was once a success story, until a cat appeared.
According to research by Greenwell and colleagues published in Animal magazine, a single cat in Mandurah harassed nesting areas of 220 seagulls for weeks. It must be responsible for the death of 6 adult seagulls and 40 juveniles.
Clearly, this conservation area is no longer safe. All the gulls had left, leaving behind a land with only empty nests, corpses, dried blood and regretful indignation of Mandurah residents.
Unusual signs were recorded from the night of November 18, 2018. City residents were awakened by the turbulent cry of gulls. A white cat was chased out of the reserve.
For many days afterwards, Greenwell began to find dead birds, essentially the only parts of their remains. Many other birds are also missing. The death of an 8-day-old young gull has dealt a blow to Greenwell. It was also the first baby born in the Mandurah sanctuary .
"Every day, I watch that little seagull grow ," she said. " Seagulls and parents go looking for children. They don't leave their nests like other neighbors, because they still wait for their children to return."
At the same time the incident happened, residents in Mandurah caught a cat stalking in the area. It has white fur. For the next few days, the gulls continued to be killed or disappeared, the animal tracking cameras confirmed the presence of the cat.
A resident even took a picture from his balcony. In it, the white cat appeared at the sanctuary and it seemed to be eating something. And so the residents decided to go on.
On the night of December 1, 2018, Greenwell and five others in Mandurah took turns guarding the gull conservation area. The white cat arrived at 7 o'clock, they chased it away. The cat returned at midnight. Again the guard chased it.
The third time the cat turned around, Greenwall himself saw it rushing toward the gulls. So it was clear, the guard team had chased the cat, but for half a mile it quickly disappeared behind a coastal bush.
The group returned to the area and they continued to take turns guarding the second night. Later, the city of Mandurah hired a security guard to take over the task for several days. When the cat does not appear again, they think the danger is over.
But not! The cat is back, many seagulls continue to be discovered. Greenwell observed another strange phenomenon. Adult gulls now no longer spend time on the ground to take care of their children.
They no longer fly around a large group above the nesting area, to search and scare off predators. " Basically, this area has fallen ," Greenwell said. By mid-December, all the seagulls left, all the babies were dead.
Everything just happened for a few weeks. During that time, there were two other domestic cats in the area. But there is no evidence that these two cats hunt gulls.
When they were taken out of the area, the gull deaths continued to appear. No camera caught the moment of any other cat in the area other than the white cat, neither the locals nor the cat.
" All people are very angry ," Greenwell said. Mandurah residents were so interested in seagulls that they would wake up every night to check if the birds were okay.
Last month, the city council issued a cat ownership bill to consult opinions in six weeks. The new law will require owners to have a license if they raise more than two cats.
Mandurah will also prohibit cats in some nature reserves and their owners will be fined $ 200 if they do not comply with the licensing rules or they let their foster cats be annoying.
All of these moves came at a time when the Australian government was trying to destroy 2 million wild cats by trapping, shooting and even releasing poisoned sausages. This is necessary to rebalance the ecosystem and help other native species on the continent.
Australian birds, mammals and reptiles have evolved over millions of years without the appearance of cats. This makes them particularly vulnerable when cats come and begin to show off their strong hunting instincts.
Cats are a factor in the extinction of most of the 34 extinct animal species in Australia, according to John Woinarski, a conservation biologist at the Center for Restoration of Endangered Animals.
In Mandurah, the white cat was finally arrested on December 12. According to local newspapers, it was killed by the city gently, also known as death. The cat does not have a tracking chip and does not have a necklace. But it was castrated.
In the United States, where cat support groups are creating more pressure than Ausatalia, they have come up with a policy although still controversial. The policy is called Release-Renewal Traps (TNR), in which wild cats are caught, castrated, then returned naturally to reduce humanitarian cat populations.
Proponents of protesting birds say the policy is ineffective. Because castration does not help them become more gentle. In any case, the castrated cats returned to the wild still hunting as usual, Greenwell said.
In Australia, the country has decided to value native wild animals more than cats. So they catch wild cats, kill them or kill them, ignoring the fact that not all cats are as destructive as a white cat in Mandurah.
" Cats can be quite benign, " Woinarski said. " Some predatory cats are very good, but other cats are not so excellent."
But in many other parts of the world, there have also been reports that a single cat can have a huge and disproportionate impact on bird populations. And cats sometimes kill beyond their dietary needs.
A study of stray cats on Jekyll Island off Georgia found cats only ate 83% of the prey they killed. The fact that the seagulls in Mandurah abandoned the entire nesting area also showed that the impact of a single cat could far outweigh the birds they killed.
" Whether cats really cause death, they can provoke fear in their small prey populations ," said Michael Cove, a biologist from North Carolina University. know.
For example, in the Florida Keys, a population of wooden mice is also threatened by wild cats. These mice have the habit of nesting with big branches, that's how they get their names.
But since the cats appeared in the area, the wood rat's nest has decreased significantly.
" Imagine, if you are this petite rodent, you will normally forgive a big, bulky tree branch, " Cove said. " That will make you more prone to be discovered, bow to my grandfather in this dust. As you can imagine, then you will easily become prey to other animals ."
Cove's research has followed up after the period when cats were taken out of the Florida Keys. The wooden mouse population has now grown normally again.
Indeed, just the presence of a cat or even a single cat is enough for an entire ecosystem to be unbalanced . The question now is how to solve the problem?
Thousands of years have passed, ever since cats took advantage of humans to invade the world, have we ever realized that we were too tolerant of them?