11 July 2024

Wellington, New Zealand – New Zealand’s annual cat-killing contest plans to expand next year, the event’s organiser said Wednesday, describing feral felines as a grave threat to native wildlife.

Feral cats prey on endangered birds, bats and lizards, according to New Zealand’s department of conservation, and they are blamed for driving some species into extinction.

The latest edition of the competition was held at the weekend in rural North Canterbury, with hunters killing 370 feral cats alongside wild pigs, possums, rats and deer.

It attracted 1,500 hunters, including 460 children who had to be accompanied by adults.

This year, one hunter won a cash prize of NZ$1,000 (US$608) for killing the largest feral cat, which weighed 6.7 kilograms (14.8 pounds).

Another NZ$500 went to the contestant with the highest number of kills — 65 feral cats.

“We’ll just carry on with what we are doing and increase the prize money next year to make it bigger and better,” hunt organiser Matt Bailey told AFP.

The event grabbed international headlines last year when a public backlash forced it to scrap an event dedicated to children under 14.

But Bailey said the hunt was needed to cull wild felines, which prey on native wildlife and carry diseases threatening livestock.

Feral cats are like “the devil on methamphetamine”, he said.

“They are crazy when caged. They will bound around trying to have a go at you,” he added.

“It would be awesome to hear the song of our native birds, but their numbers are dropping because the feral cats are annihilating everything around here.”

The cat hunt was restricted to areas at least 10 kilometres (six miles) away from residential areas.

Conservation groups want feral cats to be added to New Zealand’s plans to eradicate pests like stoats, rats, possums and ferrets, by 2050.

But the issue is sensitive in New Zealand, where close to half of all households have a pet cat.

Agence France-Presse//Photo : Getty Image