A team of “experienced professionals” have been hired to shoot the feral population of rabbits, fallow deer, guinea fowl and cats on Robben Island. According to officials, thousands of rabbits and hundreds of deer are destroying the island’s vegetation and are burrowing under historic buildings.
The rabbits were brought to the island in the 1600s as a source of meat for sailors. Fallow deer were introduced in the mid-20th century and the guinea fowl are not native to the island either. Two dozen feral cats are hunting penguin chicks and other birds.
Les Underhill, the director of the UCT’s Animal Demography Unit, said, “”We can’t just remove every invasive species – somehow we have to manage to capture the cultural and biodiversity history of the island, although they don’t all strictly belong. Clearly, we can’t allow the population to go unmanaged, because then we’d just destroy the habitat.”
According to reports, one of the shooters, John Kieser, is no stranger to animal culls. Kieser, who calls himself a “conservationist and an island ecologist” has been involved in rabbit and cat culls in other locations.
The cull is expected to take about four months with the goal or eradicating all rabbits, deer and cats! The corpses will be buried on the island. Inspectors from Cape of Good Hope SPCA have been contacted.
Previous Robben Island Culls
Sadly, culling is not new on Robben Island.
Because feral cats were affecting bird populations on the island, a cat cull reportedly took place on the island in 2006, despite protests. Although the SPCA was allowed to trap the feral cats, only eight were actually caught. It was determined that all of the cats – whether sterilized or not – would be shot to death. Originally, some sterilized cats were to remain on the island to help eradicate the rat population, but bird enthusiasts objected.
About 3,000 rabbits were captured and euthanized via lethal injection in a Rabbit Management Project that took place over a six-week period in 2008 and early 2009. The project, reluctantly approved by the National SPCA, was monitored by the Cape of Good Hope SPCA.
Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, has an interesting history. Used as a training station during World War II, the island was often used to isolate people. The island served as a leper colony, a convict station, a “lunatic” asylum for the mentally ill and a maximum-security prison. Nelson Mandela spent many years as a prisoner on Robben Island. Today, the Island is a World Heritage Site, a National Monument and houses the Robben Island Museum (RIM).
23 species of mammals roam the island, including eland, bontebok, ostriches, and sprinkbok.
Mr. Cat photo by Luis Rock
White kitten by Alexander Van Der Would
Bunny photo by Layoutcom