DLNR News Release-DLNR Chair Meets with Island Feral Cat AdvocatesPosted on Apr 25, 2023 in Latest Department News, Newsroom
(WAIKOLOA, HAWAI‘I) – At the direction of Governor Josh Green M.D., DLNR Chair Dawn Chang met today with the principals of ABayKitties, the organization that has provided cat food at a trio of feeding stations at the Queens’ Marketplace shopping center.
Last week, property owner Alexander & Baldwin (A&B) removed the feeders after learning that as many as a dozen nēnē (Hawaiian goose), were also eating cat food.
In Chair Chang’s meeting this morning with ABayKitties, she reiterated that DLNR is required by law to protect nēnē, an endangered species under state law, and a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Chang explained when nēnē eat cat food, it can make them sick and can even kill them. Toxoplasmosis, a disease carried by cats, can also kill birds and critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals. Feral cats are among the most prolific predators of numerous near-extinct native forest birds.
Chang told ABayKitties that she appreciates their passion but pointed out that native Hawaiians, numerous conservation organizations, and many local residents strongly support the protection of nēnē and other native animals, birds, and mammals. Feeding wildlife like nēnē can ‘habituate’ them to being around people which leads to more frequent car strikes, and even the abduction of young birds, as happened in Hilo last month.
Dozens of e-mails and phone calls received by DLNR and A&B show widespread support for stopping the feeding of feral cats.
- I wanted to send you my mahalo and STRONG SUPPORT for your actions to protect native wildlife at Queens’ Marketplace on Hawaiʻi Island. I am a cat lover and professional wildlife biologist, who has been following the DLNR’s actions regarding closure of the large cat feeding station with great interest. Your actions were pono, legal, and necessary for our state to move forward with the right thing for our native wildlife.
- I wanted to reach out today to personally thank you for doing the right thing. Feral cat colonies are a serious issue across the Hawaiian Islands, and I appreciate you taking a leadership position here in ensuring that it was closed down. I grew up with (indoor!) cats and loved them dearly. I care about animals and animal welfare, and while operating feeding stations *seems* like a humane thing to do, it is clear that these feeding stations are in fact terrible for the cats themselves.
- When I read that you and DLNR had closed down the large feral cat feeding station at Queens’ Marketplace I applauded your positive action. We must save our native bird species. We must protect our people from toxoplasmosis. You did the right thing.
While there have been no recent statewide surveys of the feral cat population, estimates put the number into the hundreds of thousands. On Hawai‘i Island, a 2021 survey of the nēnē population puts the number of birds at only 1,074. Statewide, the same survey indicated a population of 3,881.
Chang shared that DLNR will be ramping up education efforts, so whole communities can be a part of protecting native species and figure out a long-term solution to give cats appropriate, safe, and loving indoor homes.
On April 11, during a protest by feral cat advocates, two women were cited for the illegal take of an endangered or threatened species. Those citations will require court appearances next month. Private property owners such as A&B have the right to decide what kinds of activities are permitted on their lands.
The DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) is preparing informational flyers to distribute to property owners and individuals to educate people about how to avoid harming nēnē. The department has been in regular contact with area legislators who want to find a permanent solution and is also arranging meetings with Hawai‘i County and with humane societies, to work collaboratively.
Chair Chang has consistently stated, “This is not just a Waikoloa issue. This is not just a Hawai‘i Island issue. This is not an issue of lovers of feral cats versus lovers of native wildlife, so this is a problem without easy or readily identifiable solutions. Our mission is to protect Hawai‘i’s unique and precious wildlife. We take that seriously and to heart. While we have compassion for all living creatures, our singular mission is to protect our native threatened and endangered species from all threats.”
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(All images/video courtesy: DLNR)
HD video and photos – Nēnē eating cat food at Waikōloa (April 19, 2023):
Senior Communications Manager
Hawai‘i Dept. of Land and Natural Resources