Guest Post: Bryant on Morgan and cats

March 22nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by :

Container loads of parachuting ’s worst nightmare

The other day in a TV3 news story about Gareth Morgan offering beer to students who front up with the carcasses of dead rats, Mr Morgan said “there’s no evidence whatsoever” for claims that a successful campaign to rid the nation of cats might lead to a plague of rats.  He went on to say that “at most 20 per cent of rats end up as a victim of cats.”

I don’t know if that final point is true or not – though my guess is it’s light.  But he’s quite wrong that there’s no evidence that wiping out cats doesn’t result in a plague of rats.  He probably reckoned he was on safe ground making the claim, given his hoped for decimation of domestic and wild cats could seldom have occurred.  After all, how would you wipe them all out?

Well, it has occurred, in the Bario Highlands in Sarawak, Borneo, and sure enough, the result was a plague of rats – and other nasty creepy crawlies.

I’d read about this in the biography of Tom Harrison, an early anthropologist and the founding father of Mass Observation.  Quite the fearless pioneer, Mr Harrisson did ground-breaking anthropological research amongst cannibal tribes in the South Pacific, and parachuted into wartime Borneo to lead headhunting guerrilla fighters against the Japanese.

David Attenborough describes him as “arrogant, choleric, swashbuckling, often drunk and nearly always deliberately outrageous.  In spite of these contradictions, he became a key figure in every enterprise he undertook.”

The title of his biography is The Most Offending Soul Alive.  I suspect Mr Morgan would have liked him.

What follows is a remarkable account of what happens when you disrupt the ecological balance as Mr Morgan has campaigned to do.  What’s clear is that if Mr Morgan gets backing to kill the nation’s cats, we’re going to have to deal with the rats at exactly the same time.  And even then, what impact that will have on the population of other animals, good or bad from a human perspective, is quite another matter.

 From pages 328 and 329, Tom Harrisson and his Remarkable Life – The Most Offending Soul Alive, 1997 Aurum Press …

 Thanks to an antimalaria program by the World Health Organization, there were no almost no mosquitoes or cockroaches.  But, as Tom discovered, there were no also no cats; they had been poisoned by eating the spray-killed cockroaches.  With the cats gone, there was an explosion in the number of rats.  Without cockroaches, bed bugs, which had never been a serious problem before, proliferated.  One conclusion Tom drew was that although “the benefits of malarial spraying so far are tremendous … there are anxious nights ahead” from the possible danger of typhus, cholera, and plague from the rats, bed bugs and other parasites.  Tom’s moral was “All who wish the ulu well should daily repeat this motto: Do good carefully.”

Meanwhile, he came up with his own method for righting the ecological imbalance.  In a wireless message of November 23, 1959, to Borneo Airways, Tom asked the pilot to “bring some hungry cats to tackle the plague of rats.  I guarantee immediate payment [for] all.”  The plea went out to all Kuching.  Ong Kee Hui and many other old friends contributed kittens for Bario.  Barbara had the thankless job of caring for them until a plane could fly to Bario and deliver the cats and, she hoped, collect Tom.  According to an account that Tom published later, “in all the coast towns … the WHO opened special centres” for donations of “surplus cats.”

The project hit a snag when no plane could be made available that could land on Bario’s short strip, but, as Tom wrote, with the help of the RAF from Singapore “special containers were devised” in which to pack the cats.  One clear day, an RAF aircraft from Singapore collected the cats in Kuching and flew inland.  Then, “into the interior uplands suddenly cascaded parachute-borne containers bulging with cats of every degree of age and race.”  This may have solved the problem of the rats, if not the bed bugs.

I love it – parachuting cats in to kill the rats!

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41 Responses to “Guest Post: Bryant on Morgan and cats”

  1. gravedodger (1,575 comments) says:

    Did Tom have a resource consent, an environmental impact study, Forest and bird support, possibly a negative I guess.

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  2. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    Seeing as how the millions of cat’s that are kept as pets by their rather odd owners in NZ are generally fed on “Dine” or suchlike I somehow don’t think that some stupid example of what cat’s eat in bloody Borneo has any relevance on the NZ situation. I suspect the folk in Borneo actually regard both the cat’s and the rat’s as a food resource.

    As a chap who has hunted Stewart Island and seen and shot a few of the feral cats that populate the Island I say all power to Mad Gareth and his crusade! :)

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  3. ShawnLH (6,680 comments) says:

    Morgan.

    “I personally like “native” birds. So all you cat lovers must bend to my subjective likes and get rid of cats, and no, I don’t care how much comfort they give the elderly and those living alone, MY SUBJECTIVE LIKES MUST RULE!”

    Fascist.

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  4. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    You have never seen a feral cat then I take it ShawnLH. They are about half as big again as the biggest domestic cat somewhat resembling say a Lynx and they are rife on Stewart Island where they prey on Kiwi chicks. They only exist there because stupid people had a little pet moggy that one day ran away from home. All cats should be exterminated in NZ. They serve no useful purpose at all.

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  5. Scott Chris (6,178 comments) says:

    Good for you Johnboy, I knew there was a Greenie lurking in there somewhere. Mind you I have no objection to Granny owning a couple of cats in the city.

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  6. wrightingright (145 comments) says:

    I suppose everybody is aware of this little incident which happened a few centuries ago called “The Black Plague”??

    Well….. one of the causes of this (like many things, there are multiple reasons as to how something happened) is because of the very low cat populations. Due to them being seen as something “witches” had. Thus a high rat population.

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  7. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    It’s not so much that I’m a greenie Scotty it’s just that I like killing things! :)

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  8. ShawnLH (6,680 comments) says:

    “All cats should be exterminated in NZ. They serve no useful purpose at all.”

    Companionship is not a useful purpose?

    Using feral cats to argue for exterminating all cats is just stupid and typical of the arrogant and fascist attitudes of those Greenies trying to force their subjective likes and dislikes on others.

    Fascism is not made any more just by coloring it green.

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  9. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    I believe the rat’s in question were Mongolian rats wrightingright that brought the black death west.

    Hopefully our wise border controls and checking of all oriental looking rats will save us from a new episode of the plague! :)

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  10. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    If you need a cat to be your companion ShawnLH I suspect you have more serious mental problems than an animal can solve! :)

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  11. Elaycee (4,425 comments) says:

    Nothing wrong with a pussy at home, Johnboy… Do you know that if you stroke them nicely, they will purr? :D

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  12. ShawnLH (6,680 comments) says:

    “If you need a cat to be your companion ShawnLH”

    I don’t, but I know many elderly and those with disabilities living alone who do.

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  13. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    “I don’t, but I know many elderly and those with disabilities living alone who do.”

    That’s damned interesting ShawnLH…How many?…Separate it into elderly/ disabled! :)

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  14. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    Last time I tried to stroke mine she growled and showed her claws Elaycee! :)

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  15. labrator (1,851 comments) says:

    What follows is a remarkable account of what happens when you disrupt the ecological balance as Mr Morgan has campaigned to do

    He’s not trying to disrupt it, he’s trying to restore it. Making such an idiotic claim as above is like saying Zealandia is trying to disrupt the ecological balance. He hasn’t said it’ll be easy but at least people can get the message right. It’s obvious though, people love cats more than they love the native wildlife.

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  16. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    Some of us love shooting the hairy little horrors labrator. They make fine moving target practice.

    Our needs are never taken into consideration in these emotional cat lover arguments! :)

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  17. Elaycee (4,425 comments) says:

    @Johnboy: Yup… I’ve heard it’s best to spend a fair amount of time on their initial training and if possible to get a young one because the older ones take a lot of time to forget their ‘bad’ habits. And someone also told me they like to be teased with toys and some don’t mind being turned over and tickled! But showing claws? Sounds nasty. 8O

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  18. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    I did all that Elaycee but 43 years later she growls at me………Probably cause I was out all night playing on the tiles with my old Tomcat mate! :)

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  19. Manolo (14,171 comments) says:

    Greenie Morgan: too much money, too little sense.

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  20. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    I see his lad has made more from Xero than he did from selling Trademe. Say what you like Manolo but I wish I was as insensible as the Morgans! :)

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  21. Fentex (1,136 comments) says:

    But he’s quite wrong that there’s no evidence that wiping out cats doesn’t result in a plague of rats

    Don’t I recall a recent story, some three odd months ago, about this very problem in a small town where someone did take it upon themselves to kill several cats and an ecologist studying the area recorded an alarming decrease in the births of birds as, presumably, rats were free to pillage nests?

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  22. Dexter (317 comments) says:

    The hypocrisy of cat owners who think it’s perfectly fine for little Moggy to stray into my property and kill birds, but would call 111 if my German Shepherd jumped the fence and ran amok in their backyard.

    Simple solution is to allow any cat that isn’t kept completely under control in it’s owners backyard to be trapped and sent to the pound where the owner can pay a penalty fee for it’s return, or it can be euthanized. You know abiding by the same rules dog owners do….

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  23. Lucia Maria (2,654 comments) says:

    I’m quite happy for my cat to kill birds. Too many of them and I wouldn’t be able to hang the washing out for fear of poop, and my garden would be wrecked. Asterix keeps a harmonious, natural balance.

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  24. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    But you think Polish cats should kill Russian cats Lucia to avenge the past wrongs that Russian cats wreaked on Polish cats! :)

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  25. Lucia Maria (2,654 comments) says:

    Nope, I’m quite happy for us to all get along.

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  26. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    You have never been to Stewart Island then Lucia and seen the feral cats sneaking through the trees on their missions of destruction against our native species. If you had you would realise that Gareth is right. The whole bloody lot of the disgusting little furry murders should be hunted down and killed. The sooner the better! :)

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  27. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    People that own and protect cats should be singled out and named as native species murderers. Pet food manufacturers should be forced to add systemic poison to cat food. At last our native birds could feel free to lead there little feathered lives!! :)

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  28. hj (7,166 comments) says:

    They have a stuffed feral cat at the black stilt breeding place in Twizel; exactly as Johnboy described.

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  29. Lucia Maria (2,654 comments) says:

    Johnboy,

    Cats kill, it’s part of their nature. Spiders kill too, but no one’s worried about all the native bugs they catch in their webs. All this destruction going on around us, even to the point that people use fly sprays to kill the poor hapless flies that are doing nothing too annoyed except buzzing around. I hope we’re not all going to turn into Buddhists.

    If anyone hunted down and killed my pet, you would see my ferocious side rather than the mild mannered one you are used to.

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  30. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    How can a Godly woman such as your self Lucia harbour a crazed killer such as a cat. Do the native birds of NZ a favour and gas the horrid little murderer. You just need a cardboard box and a bit of tubing that fits your car exhaust pipe.
    Look up old 1942 Polish movies if you are confused! :)

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  31. Longknives (4,961 comments) says:

    What a fucking strange little man this Gareth Morgan character has turned out to be…a bit of media adulation (Going to Gareth for comment on EVERYTHING) and it has created a twisted little egotistical monster!
    My cat is a fine hunter- keeps rodents out of our very old house..he’d have you for dinner too Johnboy!

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  32. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    “.he’d have you for dinner too Johnboy!”

    What a fucking stupid comment to make Longknives. How could a bloody cat sort out an adult male human?

    Particularly one as heavily armed as say me?

    You are a mental case. Typical of all cat lovers I might add! :)

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  33. Longknives (4,961 comments) says:

    “I warned you!”

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  34. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    Ach aye Longknives. But there’s a big difference between a killer rabbit and a wee bit of pussy! :)

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  35. Elaycee (4,425 comments) says:

    Look up old 1942 Polish movies…

    Sheesh, Johnboy….. Not one of your better efforts. 8O

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  36. SPC (5,665 comments) says:

    The proliferation of rats occurs in all one party states.

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  37. Lucia Maria (2,654 comments) says:

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed Johnboy, but birds are killers too. Worms and snails and bugs are not safe from them.

    As well as being destroyers of crops. Strawberries, apples, tomatoes and plums aren’t safe, either.

    Also, ever tried to put down bark mulch on a raised bed? Most of it ends up tossed on the path below, because the damn birds scrabble through it looking for bugs to kill.

    When my lemon tree was young, I had a hell of a time trying to protect it from the birds. Shallow root system doesn’t seem to mean anything to them.

    If my cat wasn’t killing the birds, I just might be.

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  38. Shunda barunda (2,986 comments) says:

    Anyone that owns more than one cat is usually at least a little bit mad, more than 2 and it is an absolute certainty.

    Cat’s are a pain in the arse for anyone that doesn’t own them, it’s about time some sensible rules around their ownership came into play.

    There should be a 2 cart maximum, and anyone that has more should be booked straight into the psych ward.

    Owners of more than 2 cats are always bat shit crazy (or ‘cat shit crazy’ as it were), nutters are inextricably drawn to the murdering fluffy little crap factories for some reason.

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  39. Scott1 (592 comments) says:

    My cat got rid of a rat yesterday. he didn’t eat it because he has had lots of cat food – but the rat sure won’t be crawling around my house.

    Dexter,
    If a cat attacked your prize Cockatoo you can do what is required to protect it and I would not blame you. If your dog attacked my cat I’d do what was required too.

    However – if your dog just wanders onto my property and eats a bug – I’ll just kick it off the property. The bugs are not my pets and killing your dog would be an overreaction.

    labrator,
    What would be crazy would be if people loved random wildlife better than the cats they keep as pets. If that was the case they should have native wildlife as pets!

    As to balance – the sort of situation that needs a lot of artificial support – is a rather weird definition of balance. In a technical sense it is almost the opposite of balance.

    In the end, we have too many new species and have lost too many old ones to make what people generally refer to as the “balanced NZ ecosystem” to really be what it claims to be.

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  40. annie (539 comments) says:

    Let;s not make the same zoology 101 mistake that Gareth Morgan makes about cats – where cats are an ecosystem’s apex predator, their removal leads to uncontrolled expansion of the animals next level down in the food chain – in this case, rats stoats and mice, which studies have shown cats will catch in preference to birds. Stoats and rats are a major predator of birds, in particular eating the eggs.

    Most of the work on cats and bird populations has been done overseas, where cats aren’t top predators, and that research is irrelevant to the NZ situation. Here, cats have no natural predators, apart from strange old men who think they’re the local experts in everything.

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  41. ShawnLH (6,680 comments) says:

    If Johnboy is “heavily armed” as he claims then he should seek professional help before something bad happens. Clearly his issues with cats is psychological and not based on any actual facts.

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