Events

Cat Wars

September 28, 2019

5:00 PM

Location:
Visitor Center Gallery

2019 Autumn Lecture

FREE

Peter Marra, PhD., head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, will discuss the effects of free-ranging cats on biodiversity, especially birds. In his new book Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer, Marra details specific evidence that cats, even pets, play in killing millions of birds each year.

In 1894, a lighthouse keeper named David Lyall arrived on Stephens Island off New Zealand with a cat 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.

 

This compelling book traces 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. It charts 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. It describes 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. 

Cat Wars paints a revealing picture of a complex global problem―and 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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