Domestic cats and their impacts on biodiversity: a blind spot in the application of nature conservation law
Trouwborst, A and McCormack, PC and Martinez Camacho, E, Domestic cats and their impacts on biodiversity: a blind spot in the application of nature conservation law, People and Nature, 2, (1) pp. 235-250. ISSN 2575-8314 (2020) [Refereed Article]
1. Free-ranging domestic cats Felis catus, from owned pets to feral cats, impact biodiversity through predation, fear effects, competition, disease and hybridization.
Scientific knowledge regarding these impacts has recently increased, making it
timely to assess the role of nature conservation legislation in this connection. We
do so with particular regard to the obligations of governments around the world
under international wildlife law.
2. First, we provide an overview of current knowledge, based on a literature review,
concerning the ways in which domestic cats impact wildlife; the resulting effects
on native speciesí populations and ecosystems; and available strategies for addressing these issues. In light of this knowledge, using standard legal research
methodology, we then identify and interpret relevant legal instruments, with a
particular focus on international wildlife treaties. Lastly, we identify and assess
factors that may influence the implementation of relevant obligations.
3. The outcomes of this analysis indicate that numerous legal obligations of relevance to free-ranging domestic cats already apply under global treaties such as
the Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention on Migratory Species and
World Heritage Convention, and a range of regional legal instruments for biodiversity conservation. Of particular significance are obligations concerning (a) invasive alien species; (b) protected areas and (c) protected species.
4. Many national authorities around the world are currently required, under international law, to adopt and implement policies aimed at preventing, reducing or
eliminating the biodiversity impacts of free-ranging domestic cats, in particular
by (a) removing feral and other unowned cats from the landscape to the greatest
extent possible and (b) restricting the outdoor access of owned cats.
5. Factors that can influence or impair the application of these obligations include
considerations of feasibility, scientific uncertainty, the interests of cat owners and
the (perceived) interests of domestic cats themselves. Even if such factors may to
some extent explain why many authorities have hitherto failed to take effective
action to address the threats posed by free-ranging domestic cats, from a legal perspective these factors provide little ground for justifying non-compliance with
international wildlife law.
invasive alien species, feral cat, biodiversity conservation, law, pest, convention on biological diversity, convention on migratory species, Felis catus, international law, invasive alien species, nature conservation law, protected areas