AMAMI, Kagoshima -- The Ministry of the Environment is set to expand its capture of feral cats on Amami-Oshima in the coming years to protect endangered animals on the island.
Currently, feral cats are caught only in the southwestern part of the island in Kagoshima Prefecture. But starting in fiscal 2021, the ministry will gradually expand the areas where traps are set to cover the entire island by fiscal 2023. It aims to reduce their density throughout the island by fiscal 2027. The ministry reported the plan in a meeting held in the city of Amami on Feb. 3.
Cats on the island have become feral after being brought there by humans. Because the cats are said to affect the island's indigenous ecology such as by preying on animals including Amami rabbits, which are designated as national natural monuments, they have been considered as one of the issues to address for the island to be designated as a World Natural Heritage site.
The Environment Ministry, the Kagoshima Prefectural Government and five municipal governments on the island started catching feral cats in July 2018. Currently, eight workers have set 450 traps across an area of 103 square kilometers. A total of 191 cats were caught by the end of January this year, and all of them, except for two that died, were given to people living on the island and in other areas. None of the cats were culled. The Environment Ministry estimates 600 to 1,200 feral cats inhabit the island.
To steadily catch the felines, authorities taking part in the initiative will divide the island into 21 areas. They will catch feral cats in nine areas mainly in the southeastern part of the island from the coming fiscal year beginning in April, and gradually widen the area after fiscal 2021. They aim to find homes for all domestic cats that are captured, implant microchips and neuter 90 to 100% of them by fiscal 2027. At the same time, officials will proceed with measures to ensure the island stays free of feral cats.
During the meeting on Feb. 3, it was pointed out that while expanding the area where traps were set is essential, the current level of personnel and budget is insufficient to do so. Meanwhile, Tokyo Woman's Christian University's honorary professor Nobuo Ishii, who presided over the meeting, suggested that efforts to date had proved successful, as indicated by the fact that fewer feral cats are being caught and captured on automatically activated security cameras.
"We're producing good results in a small area," he said.
(Japanese original by Kazuaki Kanda, Amami Local Bureau)