Monday 4 December 2023

National Parks Service wants to get rid of the cats of Puerto Rico's historic seaside capital

NEWS AND COMMENT: I am going to stick my neck out and say that the National Park Service is incorrect in their reasoning in their desire to get rid of the stray cats that roam Puerto Rico's historic seaside capital. I'm told by The New York Post that there are about 200 of them and they have a long history.

A stray ginger tabby cat of the capital of Puerto Rico, a US administered territory.

It is said that they had descended from the colonial-era kittens. They are unique to San Juan according to Darnell Wakefield, a solar contractor who visits the cats every week. They love to see them along their walk. They say that it would be a boring walk without seeing the cats.

The cats occupy a 75-acre historic site surrounding the El Morro fortress home and have become part of the tourist landscape.

However, in going against the grain of popular opinion it seems to me, the National Park Service say that the cats spread diseases to people. They are a nuisance and "inconsistent with the cultural landscape".

They want to get rid of them all and have announced a six-month plan to trap the cats. A spokesperson said that: "visitors will benefit from the removal of a potential disease vector from the park".

A "disease vector"! Comment: they are incorrect. The possibility of a stray cat passing on a disease to a visitor is remote. There are very few zoonosis i.e. zoonotic diseases which can be transferred from cat to person. And, in any case, if you don't touch them there is no possibility.

The park service also states that the cats deposit urine and faeces around the place which is unhygienic et cetera. I would bet my bottom dollar that nobody sees faeces or urine.

It is common knowledge that stray cats at tourist locations enhance the location from the tourists' perspective. You will see stray cats in pretty well all the Mediterranean cities and towns and they remain there as a tourist attraction. Nobody complains about spreading disease.

The National Park Service superintendent said that: "The situation that these animals experience at the park, specifically at the Paseo del Morro, is not ideal for them and is inconsistent with National Park Service policies regarding the feeding of animals and invasive species."

That seems to me to be the voice of a person who doesn't like cats who wants to try and 'clean up the place'. The problem as I see it is that you can't simply just get rid of the cats because they return.

You have to tackle the so-called "feral cat problem" holistically. That means dealing with the source of stray cats which will be ultimately be irresponsible cat ownership. You have to educate people about cat ownership and caregiving. You have to ensure that there is no informal breeding of domestic cats in the area surrounding the targeted area.

My understanding is that they're going to try and trap them and then rehome them but no doubt there will be many who are euthanised. And simply killing stray cats does not work out well because you inevitably receive criticism from animal advocates and also inevitably cats gradually creep back into the cleaned up area and so you have to start again.

They will have to do something slightly different and I would suggest a fully funded TNR program over many years (a permanent program in fact) to gradually decrease the population size humanely. These cats are in a defined area and therefore a well-managed TNR program should be effective over time. It's going to require patience.

It may surprise some people to know that Puerto Rico is an American territory. It is a special sort of territory described as an unincorporated territory of the United States officially known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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