Speaker: Dr. Peter Marra, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
In 1894, lighthouse keepers arrived on Stephens Island off New Zealand with a cat, supposedly named Tibbles. In just over a year, the Stephens Island Wren, a rare bird endemic to the island, was rendered extinct. Mounting scientific evidence confirms what many conservationists have suspected for some time—that in the United States alone, free-ranging cats are killing birds and other animals by the billions. Equally alarming are the little-known but potentially devastating public health consequences of rabies and parasitic Toxoplasma passing from cats to humans at rising rates. Cat Wars tells the story of the threats free-ranging cats pose to biodiversity and public health throughout the world, and sheds new light on the controversies surrounding the management of the explosion of these cat populations.
Marra will trace the historical and cultural ties between humans and cats from early domestication to the current boom in pet ownership, along the way accessibly explaining the science of extinction, population modeling, and feline diseases. He will chart the developments that have led to our present impasse—from Stan Temple’s breakthrough studies on cat predation in Wisconsin to cat-eradication programs underway in Australia today. Marra will also describe how a small but vocal minority of cat advocates has campaigned successfully for no action in much the same way that special interest groups have stymied attempts to curtail smoking and climate change. The outdoor cat issue is a complex global problem—Cat Wars proposes solutions that foresee a time when wildlife and humans are no longer vulnerable to the impacts of free-ranging cats.
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