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A step closer to a Cat Management Act
Momentum builds to get cats in laps and keep vulnerable wildlife safe.
Kia ora, welcome to Future Proof. I’m Ellen, thanks for joining me this week.
Good news for cat lovers and wildlife lovers alike last week, as the Environment Committee recommended new legislation be developed for a nationwide cat management framework. We talked about our furry feline friends (and their unfortunate impacts on wildlife) in an early edition of Future Proof.
Jessi Morgan, chief executive of the Predator Free NZ Trust, is glad the committee’s findings were so positive and supportive of the need for legislation. “It’s a great step forward. Now we just need some political action,” she says. The SPCA applauded the recommendation, which reflected “a consensus” among diverse stakeholders. Chief scientific officer, Arnja Dale, says, “There is far more agreement in how cats should be cared for and managed in New Zealand than what is often portrayed. Requiring owned cats to be desexed and microchipped is not controversial.”
The three types of cats
Not all kitties are the same: your spoiled lap cat is very different to a feral cat, and a stray cat is different again. Feral cats are often identifiable due to their aggressive behaviour. Strays are unowned but tend to live in urban areas – rather than out in the wop-wops like their feral cousins – and may rely on human feeding to get by. Morgan would love to see some clear guidelines around phasing out stray colonies, including an end to current trap-neuter-release practices. “It's so devastating, and people think they're doing the right thing for the animal and they're really not. Often those animals live quite miserable lives,” she says. Plus, although a trapped-neutered-released cat may no longer reproduce, it will continue gobbling up native birds and bats and insects across its lifespan.
The ingredients of good cat management
Microchipping, registering and desexing are three key ingredients for any Cat Act that lawmakers might cook up. SPCA deals with more than 25,000 cats every year, including unplanned litters of kittens, lost cats, and “a heartbreaking influx” of sick and injured cats. But only around half of the 1.2 million companion cats in New Zealand homes are microchipped. This lack of microchipping is a problem for conservation groups too, who struggle to differentiate owned and unowned cats (especially strays).
Desexing prevents breeding between owned cats and strays, and reduces unwanted kittens, in turn reducing the populations decimating native wildlife. Keeping cats contained is another kettle of fish, with the committee writing “the public has little interest in keeping their cats at home without the ability to roam.” But the roaming cat conversation is kicking off, and our neighbours across the ditch are beginning to limit the free rein of cats.
The path forward
The government has until 25 October to respond to the committee’s report, and the path to a fully realised Cat Act remains lengthy. Exactly which government agency would be responsible remains unclear, with cats cutting across a number of issues. In the meantime, the Predator Free NZ Trust is calling for Kiwis to write to their MPs about cats, using a letter template. Then, maybe one day, the vision of every cat in a lap will be realised – keeping both kitties and wildlife safe. “In an ideal world, all cats would be cats on laps. This would mean no stray or feral cats, and all companion cats being safe and happy at home,” says Dale. Sounds pretty neat to me.
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‘Something weird’ is happening in Antarctica
In February this year, Antarctica’s sea ice hit a record low. Now, an area of sea ice the size of nine New Zealands has failed to freeze over the winter. Scientists are worried we’re witnessing “something weird” – or even the slow collapse of the icy continent’s sea ice, says The Guardian. A new study surveys impacts cascading from extreme events in Antarctica, Jamie Morton reports for the NZ Herald. Examples include the recent arrival of non-native plants, temperatures 40ºC above normal, and the breeding failure of an entire colony of Adelié penguins. The changes happening in Antarctica affect the Southern Ocean, and therefore affect us here in New Zealand, according NIWA oceanographer Natalie Robinson. “New Zealand is in the firing line of a more energetic ocean/atmosphere system, capable of delivering more intense storm and rain events, with increasing frequency.”
It’s hot everywhere
A winter heatwave in the Chilean Andes has sent temperatures soaring to 37ºC this week, accelerating snowmelt and potentially worsening drought conditions for people living downstream. Further north, on the border of Bolivia and Peru, South America’s largest lake is drying up. The water level in Lake Titicaca is dwindling closer to an all-time low, leaving the region’s farmers high and dry. The heatwave comes after July was declared the hottest month in human history – Shanti Mathias spoke to a climate scientist about what this means for Aotearoa, and what might come next. Plus, the heatwaves haven’t just been on land either: the ocean is boiling too. The New York Times reveals what this year’s “astonishing” ocean heat means for the planet.
New $2b investment fund to boost renewables
Yesterday the government announced a new $2 billion fund for renewable energy infrastructure in partnership with investment giant BlackRock. Called a “game changer for the clean tech sector” by PM Chris Hipkins, the fund aims to support New Zealand’s “aspirational goal” of 100% renewable energy by 2030. However, RNZ reports that details remain hazy and Stuff’s Tom Pullar-Strecker contends that the structure of the electricity market itself will need to change if we want to reach the 100% goal. The Spinoff’s Shanti Mathias outlines who BlackRock is and why the multinational has set up shop in Aotearoa. More than 80% of New Zealand’s energy needs are currently met by renewables (mostly hydro). A handful of countries achieve more than 95% renewable energy, and Tokelau reached 100% solar power ten years ago.
The renewable energy source beneath our feet
In this episode of When the Facts Change, Bernard Hickey sits down with Isabelle Chambeforst from GNS Science to chat about geothermal energy. Could deep drilling supercharge geothermal power output, helping us solve the dry-year problem of our hydro-dominated system?
We try to live sustainably, but more of us are seeking sustainability in death too, Alex Casey finds.
These TikTok stars are cleaning up Indonesia’s trash-filled waterways.
A wallaby fence has been built in Rotorua to try to contain the spread of invasive wallabies.
Remember when the polar bear was the climate change poster child? Or when zero-waste activists hoarded their meagre rubbish in jars? Grist looks back on the environmental fads of years gone by.
New Zealand could nearly double its electricity supply by putting floating solar panels on reservoirs and dams.
Vox tracks a carbon offset credit purchased in the UK across the globe to cooking stoves in Kenya.
Newsroom’s Jonathan Milne canvasses the climate retreat situation in Hawke’s Bay, including the Ōmāhu Marare community who have decided to shift.
Commuting with two wheels (motorcycle, scooter, bike) is up by 63% post-Covid, according to a new survey. (Public transport is up too, by 24%.)
Waituna Lagoon in Southland is showing promising signs of recovery, back from the brink of ecological disaster.
To finish this issue, meet the Cook’s petrel, or tītī. In summer and autumn, I hear these seabirds flying above my house, making their kek-kek-kek call that sounds vaguely like a bleating goat. Cook’s petrels breed in the Hauraki Gulf, but they forage for kaimoana in the Tasman Sea. This means they have to fly across the Auckland isthmus, and unfortunately quite a number become dazzled by the bright city lights and crash-land. Luckily, there are lovely people scouring the streets for stranded seabirds, and more lovely people at Birdcare Aotearoa helping them recover. I joined these lovely people for an episode of Our Changing World to learn more about tītī, light pollution and squid smoothies.
Have a tītī-riffic week, petrelheads,
PS – Know a young woman with an interest in science, art or exploring Aotearoa’s icy mountains? Girls on Ice Aotearoa is seeking applications for its upcoming expedition to Mt Ruapehu.
Got some feedback about Future Proof or topics you’d like covered? Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org