UNUSUAL. Cats banned from leaving to save an endangered bird

More and more bird species are disappearing. In question, pesticides… and cats! To save a bird threatened with extinction, cats are banned from the streets and gardens of a district of Walldorf, Germany. The controversy swells across the Rhine.

This is the story of David and Goliath. Where David is a medium-sized lark, lover of grasshoppers, ants and spiders: the crested lark. And where Goliath is a cat fond of fledglings fallen from the nest (or taken from the nest): the domestic cat. So far, nothing very surprising or unusual.

But the man intervened. Depleting and destroying one’s habitat and preventing it from reproducing. ” A century ago, the lark was still abundant due to the presence of horses, which brought space and beneficial food to the lark. But with the invention of the car and its trivialization, the horse was forgotten and the lark with“, explains Ornithalsace.

At the same time, thriving cat populations have not diminished. The crested lark is now very rare or even dying out on both sides of the Rhine.

And Man intervened again. To save the lark. It is the district of the Rhine and the Neckar (capital Heidelberg) which took the bull by the horns, or rather the cat by the skin of the neck, to confine it inside its house or its apartment. with prohibition to leave before the end of August. Time for the crested lark to reproduce in nests on the ground (which makes it difficult to protect it) and to teach its young to fly well away from predators.

The story does not end there. It just begins on May 14, 2022, the day of publication of the decree of the Rhine and Neckar district. Since that date, and in a specific area, cat owners no longer have the right to let their tomcats out, under penalty of a fine of 500 euros. The lockdown period will end on August 31. And will be renewed each year from March 1 to August 31 until 2025, specify the authorities.

Order of May 14, arrondissement of Rhine and Neckar by Florence Grandon on Scribd

Containment, the word annoys and worries since the coronavirus pandemic. Is it for this reason that the controversy took? On the internet, nature conservationists and cat owners are speaking out in large numbers. The animal defense association, responsible for a shelter, is overwhelmed by aggressive messages, worried questions from owners or requests from the media.

I don’t want our situation to become a textbook case, cited as an example everywhere“, explains Volker Stutz, president of the Walldorf animal welfare association by email. And to avoid this, I put all my energy into meetings and research with biologists, specialists in animal rights and environmental management to find a solution that could suit everyone, and especially cats, their owners and the animals to be protected. But not everyone is looking for that. We, as an association for the defense of animals, are poles apart from the authorities who are looking for the fastest solution: closing passages, capturing cats, shooting magpies… For me, none of these solutions is intelligent.”

There are three solutions for taking your cat out: equip it with a GPS which proves that the animal never goes to the breeding area of ​​the crested lark (but this solution will be possible from 2023…), boarding it from March to August, or walking it with a two-meter leash maximum. Proposals that the mayor of Walldorf judges “completely out of reality and not morally acceptable for cat owners“, judge Matthias Renschler. But the mayor is powerless, he can do nothing against a measure decided in Stuttgart and Karlsruhe. “Seen from here, we especially have the impression that this measure is not thought out to the end.”

It is indeed the Land of Baden-Württemberg which has decided to protect this endangered species, by ordering the closure of this district of Walldorf in the district of Rhine and Neckar. About forty pairs of crested larks live in this border land with Alsace. Only the city of Walldorf is affected by a cat containment measure, for three pairs of these little larks.

To avoid “confinements going against the basic rules of animal defense“, the Tom-Tatze shelter, managed by the Walldorf animal welfare association, has decided to no longer give cats for adoption for all residents of Walldorf. “Having to completely close your garden with fences to prevent your cat from escaping is an aberration and goes against the right to have a pet“, argues the association.

Animal advocates have decided to help cat owners take the case to court. They developed a standard letter for the Ministry of the Environment of Baden-Württemberg, as a first step. They examine with these lawyers the remedies that may exist.

This measure is more likely to be useless: we only have three pairs of crested larks in Walldorf.

Mattias Renschler, Mayor of Walldorf

The risk with this measure, which no one understands, is to stir up anger and misunderstanding among many people, who then risk being opposed to any nature protection measure.“Matthias Renschler is worried.”The acceptance is not there, and the conflicts will be numerous. This measure is more likely to be useless: we only have three pairs of crested larks in Walldorf. All the measures implemented so far have not prevented its gradual disappearance. The containment of cats will probably not be enough to save them.”

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