Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Setting a cat amongst the pigeons

There's a man here who, because he's rich, thinks we should all listen to him, and the current bee in his bonnet is, to mix species, cats. In his latest bid for publicity, carefully timing his pronouncement for the return to work of all the current affairs people, he's declared that cats kill native birds for fun, basically - clearly those internet-savvy felines have been playing way too much Call of Duty - and should be contained 24/7 and not replaced after death. I predict that there will be a flurry of argument on both sides, much huffing and puffing, some witty cartoons in the papers and, finally, no change in the status quo. As usual.

It's not that I don't care about birds - why, this very morning I rescued a crippled baby sparrow from a ditch and took it to the sainted (if rather brusque and impatient) Bird Lady who popped it into a cage of other baby sparrows and showed me a skylark, several young kingfishers, a morepork, baby wood pigeon, regular pigeons, a gull chick, blackbirds, thrushes and mynahs, some waxeyes, several escaped minor parrots, a black-backed gull and a heron. I like all animals, and it would be strange to live in a city without cats, despite the inevitable bird-murders that result (also rat- and mouse-murders, to the birds' benefit, but they don't get the same coverage, of course).

The nearest I've come to that is Aitutaki, where there are no dogs. A chief's child was once mauled there, so he banned all dogs on the island from then on, and the rule still applies. It's especially noticeable because on Rarotonga there are plenty, wandering about uncollared, looking like strays but too well fed for that. They seem to have their daily routines of taking a morning stroll along the beaches, checking out the fish in the super-clear water, or staking out a shady spot in the little town of Avarua, lying there equably watching the world, and the chickens, go by, perfectly at peace. They're a part of the laid-back, Pacific feel of the place; Aitutaki, though otherwise perfect, feels odd without their presence.

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