Spiral Notebook: This is not a cute cat meme

By Giles Broadbent on August 15, 2014 1:01 AM |

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By Giles Broadbent

The hutia of the Caribbean; the Guadaloupe storm petrel; the Stephens Island wren - you can't see any of these creatures in the wild.

They are extinct, victims of an imported predator that has created unparalleled damage to indigenous populations - the cat.

Island creatures are particularly prone. Without cause to evolve defences, they are vulnerable to a cat invasion. (Cats were often introduced to keep down voracious alien rat populations, ironically.)

The kakapo is to be found on the islands around New Zealand. Well, 126 individuals are recorded of this large, flightless, nocturnal parrot whose sophisticated defence against the imported cats is to stay very, very still. Plans to restore the species centre on removing their clawed nemesis.

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But the cat does not just impoverish exotic lands. A new report suggests the animal is one of the top threats to US wildlife killing up to 20billion mammals annually.

Cats so beloved of internet memes - falling off tables, misjudging jumps and sticking cups on their head - have contributed to the extinction of 33 species, according to Nature Communications.

This week Dr Clive Mowforth of Gloucester posted leaflets containing images of his neighbours' cats in the act of killing his avian visitors. He has now taken down his bird table having become fed up waking up to a breakfast time bloodbath.

The cat is not Norman Wisdom, it's Norman Schwarzkopf.

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