Australian officials are airdropping poisonous sausages across the country in order to kill millions of feral cats that have taken over the continent.
In 2015, the country’s government announced a plan to kill 2 million feral cats by 2020, according to a recent report from The New York Times.
“Feral cats are a real menace and a very significant threat to the health of our ecosystem,” Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s former environment minister, told the paper.
In the first year after the Australian government publicized their plan, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology estimated 211,560 feral cats were killed, according to The Times.
The cats are mostly trapped and shot by officials, but now the cats are also poisoned by airdropped sausages.
The recipe for the sausages, as reported by The Times, includes kangaroo meat, chicken fat, herbs, spices and a poison called 1080 that is deadly to the feral cats. The Independent reported it takes 15 minutes for a cat to be killed after eating the contaminated sausage.
In 2015, the Australian government announced a plan to kill 2 million feral cats by 2020, according to a recent report from The New York Times. Feral cats have invaded almost the whole continent and have been severely damaging to native species. (AP Photo/Department of the Environment, C. Potter) (The Associated Press)
Almost half a million sausages are airdropped in a month and about 50 sausages are dropped every square kilometer, according to The Times.
The cats — which are not native to Australia and were first brought to the continent in the 1700s when European settlers first arrived — have invaded almost the whole continent and have been severely damaging to native species.
The Times reported that cats are believed to have been one of the main threats to 22 of the 34 species in Australia that have gone extinct since the 1700s — species that existed nowhere else in the world.
A 2017 study published in the journal Biological Conservation found that cats in Australia are estimated to kill 377 million birds and 649 reptiles every year, the Independent reported.
Despite pushback after the initial announcement to kill the 2 million cats — which included more than 160,000 signatures on several online petitions asking for the cats to be saved, according to The Times — the Australian government declared feral cats to be pests in July 2015.
“Feral cats are a nationally significant pest that threaten our unique native fauna. While recognizing the important role of domestic cats as companion animals, domestic and stray cats may also threaten native fauna,” the Australian National Declaration said, in part.
‘Ministers also agreed that the management of feral cats will be considered a priority in threatened species recovery programs,” the declaration added.