Dhaka, Aug 30 (UNB) - A small village on the southern coast of New Zealand is planning to implement a radical plan to protect its native wildlife: ban all domestic cats, reports the BBC.
Under the initiative, proposed by Environment Southland, cat owners in Omaui will have to neuter, microchip and register their moggies with local authorities.
After their pet dies, cat lovers in the community will then not be allowed to get any more.
It sounds extreme, but it may be something more communities should be considering: after all, cats are responsible for the death of billions of birds and mammals each year - and, according to some, it is all our fault.
Dr Peter Marra, the head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre, has authored journals and books on the issue.
Contrary to preconceptions about him, he insists he is not anti-cat or against cat ownership.
"Cats make wonderful pets - they're spectacular pets! But they shouldn't be allowed to roam outside - it's a really obvious solution," he told the BBC.
"We would never let dogs do that. It's about time we treat cats like dogs."
In Omaui, officials say the measure is justified because cameras have shown roaming cats preying on birds, insects and reptiles in the area.
"So your cat can live out its natural life at Omaui happily doing what it's doing. But then when it dies, you wouldn't be able to replace it," bio-security operations manager Ali Meade explained.
Under the plan, anyone not complying would receive a notice, before officials would remove the pets - but only as an "absolute last resort".
The initiative is part of the regional council's proposed regional pest management plan, which was opened for consultation on Tuesday.
John Collins, chairman of the Omaui Landcare Charitable Trust, championed the ban to protect "high-value" nature reserves there.
'We're not cat haters, but we want our environment to be wildlife-rich," he said, the Otago Daily Times reports.
How big a problem are cats?
The debate about cat populations and local eco-systems is not unique to Omaui.
Conservation scientists have long warned about the impact of feral and outdoor cats on the global eco system - and they've been ranked among the 100 worst non-native invasive species in the world.
Dr Marra says 63 species extinctions around the world are now linked to the booming cat populations. The problem is exacerbated in areas with very sensitive eco-systems, like New Zealand.
"It sounds extreme," he says. "But the situation has got out of control."
He believes cat-lovers around the world need to embrace a "different mind-set" toward the animals. He believes they should be adopted where possible, then neutered and exercised at home using toys, or in a controlled environment - for example, on a leash.
"This predicament is not the fault of cats - its humans' fault," he insists.
Because of their popularity on social media and in memes, the global pet population shows no sign of abating.
"They are just cute - everything about them, which makes this whole thing more difficult."
Accurate estimates are hard to ascertain, but in the US there are about 86 million pet cats - roughly one in every three households.
Unquantifiable amounts live stray or feral, meaning huge casualties in the environment.
It is estimated that as many as four billion birds and 22 billion mammals are killed by cats in the US every year.
Even in the UK, populations are on the decline, and experts blame cats. The Mammal Society says that about 55 million birds are falling casualty each year.
It's not the first time cats have been painted as a menace in New Zealand - a country boasting a feline in almost half its households.
They're a hot issue in Australia too, where feral and outdoor cats are blamed for millions of native species' deaths every night.
The nation has been funding grassroots culling initiatives since 2015, boasts the world's largest cat-proof fence and has even considered introducing a national curfew for domestic cats.
Councils and state governments have been taking the cat problem into their own hands - forcing cats to stay indoors at night, implementing household quotas and mandatory identification and neutering.
Nevertheless, initiatives against felines remain controversial. Last year animal rights groups laid particular scorn at one Queensland local council who were offering $10 bounties for feral cat scalps.
In Omaui, residents told local media they were "shocked" and "hoodwinked" by the proposed ban and have vowed to resist it.
Nico Jarvis, a local resident who says her three cats help combat rodents in her house, compared the proposal to a "police state".
''It's not even regulating people's ability to have a cat. It's saying you can't have a cat,'' she told the Otago Daily Times.
Paw Justice, a New Zealand-based non-profit that focuses on animal abuse, posted about the plan on Facebook, questioning the evidence behind it.
Cat-lovers on the group's Facebook page reacted angrily to the news and pointing out that poisons, cars and humans also damage native species.
Local residents have until the end of October to register their submissions to Environment Southland's plan.
Berlin, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — A golden statue of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that was installed at an art festival whose motto is "Bad news" has been taken down after authorities in the German city of Wiesbaden said it was becoming a security issue.
The dpa news agency reported that the 4-meter (13-foot) sculpture depicting Erdogan with a raised right arm, evoking the statue of Saddam Hussein toppled by American forces in Iraq, was removed just after midnight in the central city.
Since its erection Monday, authorities said it had become a magnet for pro- and anti-Erdogan speeches and provoked conflict.
Wiesbaden State Theater director Uwe Eric Laufenberg defended that debate as being the installation's purpose, saying "we displayed the statue in order to discuss Erdogan."
He says "in a democracy, one must tolerate all opinions."
Berlin, Aug 28 (AP/UNB) — Survivors and the families of those killed during a 1988 air show at the U.S. Air Base in Ramstein are commemorating the 30th anniversary of the aviation disaster in Germany.
A religious ceremony was planned Tuesday to remember the 70 people who died when three Italian stunt planes collided on Aug. 28, 1988.
One of the planes crashed into a crowd of spectators, injuring more than 1,000 people. Hundreds of people at the show suffered life-changing burns.
Relatives and survivors will also be allowed to visit the normally off-limits air base.
Paris, Aug 28 (AP/UNB) — France's high-profile environment minister, former TV personality Nicolas Hulot, unexpectedly announced his resignation live on national radio Tuesday, lamenting a lack of decisive action on green issues. The move deals a stinging blow to the environmental credibility of President Emmanuel Macron.
Clearly emotional, Hulot made clear his frustrations at what he said was France's slow pace of progress on green issues. The long-time environmental advocate told France Inter radio that he no longer wants to give the impression "that we're up to standard on these issues, and so I have decided to quit the government."
Recruiting Hulot to his government had been a coup for Macron, who has sought to position France as a champion in the fight against environmental degradation and as a counterweight to the climate change attitudes of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Losing Hulot so suddenly, just as the government is resuming work after France's August vacation, is likely to force a ministerial reshuffle but also casts doubt on the strength of Macron's commitment to "make our planet great again."
Hulot damned Macron's government with faint praise as he sprang his resignation surprise.
"France is doing more than a lot of other countries. Do not make me say that it is doing enough. It is not doing enough. Europe is not doing enough. The world is not doing enough," he said.
Never a career politician, Hulot accepted a role in Macron's government in the hope that, from an inside position, he could make real progress on green concerns that he has long sounded the alarm about.
But on France Inter, Hulot said short-term pressures were taking priority in government over the longer-term need to reverse environmental destruction. He described himself as "all alone" and said: "I have a bit of influence but I have no power and no means."
Hulot said he'd been mulling his resignation for several months but one of the last straws was a government meeting Monday about hunting. Hulot was dismayed that a hunting lobbyist was allowed to take part despite not being invited, seeing his presence as a symbol of lobbyists' influence over French government.
"I no longer believe," Hulot said.
Rome, Aug 28 (AP/UNB) — An Italian journalist who says he helped a former Vatican diplomat pen his bombshell allegation of sex abuse cover-up against Pope Francis says he persuaded the archbishop to go public after the U.S. church was thrown into turmoil by sex abuse revelations in the Pennsylvania grand jury report.
Marco Tosatti said he helped Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano write and edit his 11-page testimony, saying the two sat side-by-side at a wooden table in Tosatti's living room for three hours on Aug. 22.
Tosatti told The Associated Press that Vigano, a previous acquaintance, had called him a few weeks ago asking to meet. He then proceeded to tell Tosatti the stories that became the basis of his testimony against the pope.
Vigano's allegations have thrown Francis' 5-year papacy into crisis.