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Almost 300 free-roaming cats sterilized to help protect African Wildcats

North African wildcat

“The African wildcat is the ancestor of our domestic cats, the one who started our modern love affair with cats. Small wildcats around the world are threatened by numerous factors, including habitat loss, hunting and interbreeding…it’s important we do everything in our power to protect biodiversity right now.”

The effort, spearheaded by Alley Cat Rescue (ACR), is bringing South Africa-based rescue and cat advocacy groups together around a common goal.

With the support of local veterinarians and scientists, domestic cats from the targeted border areas will receive health exams and rabies vaccinations, and will also be spayed or neutered. The park’s borders in South Africa are where AWCs and domestic cats from nearby urban and settled areas can most often come into contact.

“Outside the park, one option is to try capture, neuter and return feral cats,” said Invasive Species Specialist Dr. Llewellyn Foxcroft. “The reasoning here is that if a cat is removed, another will fill its home range and thus the problem is not solved. However, by returning cats which cannot breed, the home range is maintained and other cats are naturally excluded from the territory.”

This approach is, however, resource intensive. ACR is working to build the infrastructure and revenue stream needed to ensure that the program will be ongoing.

ACR is following the advice of Foxcroft and using the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) method to capture, treat and then return the cats to their territory. TNR is widely practiced in the U.S. and abroad and is known as the safest and most humane way to manage populations of outdoor cats.

“The African wildcat is the ancestor of our domestic cats, the one who started our modern love affair with cats,” said Louise Holton, President of Alley Cat Rescue and a native of South Africa. “Small wildcats around the world are threatened by numerous factors, including habitat loss, hunting and interbreeding. With so much environmental change happening, it’s important we do everything in our power to protect biodiversity right now.”

North African wildcat
Female North African wildcat (Felis lybica lybica) in the southern Moroccan Sahara. Photo: Alexander Sliwa

For the multi-year project, Alley Cat Rescue is spearheading the efforts in South Africa, as well as providing humane traps.

The project has also received support from the Ayers Wild Cat Conservation Fund, a foundation run by Helaine and Jon Ayers. Ayers is the CEO of IDEXX Laboratories, a multi-national company that produces products and services for various animal-related applications.

ACR is currently looking for additional pharmaceutical companies in South Africa, as well as cat food companies, to get involved and provide further support for the growing project.

A similar strategy is taking place in Scotland to help the endangered Scottish Wildcat.

The African Wildcat lives throughout the continent of Africa, and parts of Asia and the Middle East. It is currently listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international agreement among countries to protect threatened and endangered species. As with other Appendix II species, African Wildcats are not immediately threatened with extinction, but do need protection in order to ensure their survival.

About Alley Cat Rescue

ACR is an International nonprofit organization dedicated to the welfare of all cats: domestic, stray, abandoned, and feral. ACR advocates for humane, nonlethal control of feral cats. ACR has been awarded the Independent Charities of America’s “Best in America” Seal of Approval, and its newsletter has won several awards from the Cat Writers’ Association.

ACR’s Guide to Managing Community Cats was also awarded a Certificate of Excellence by the CWA.

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