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Domestic cats and their impacts on biodiversity: a blind spot in the application of nature conservation law


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Trouwborst, A, McCormack, PC ORCID: 0000-0001-6751-8291 and Martinez Camacho, E 2020 , 'Domestic cats and their impacts on biodiversity: a blind spot in the application of nature conservation law' , People and Nature, vol. 2, no. 1 , pp. 235-250 , doi: 10.1002/pan3.10073.

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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 ittimely to assess the role of nature conservation legislation in this connection. Wedo so with particular regard to the obligations of governments around the worldunder 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 effectson native species’ populations and ecosystems; and available strategies for addressing these issues. In light of this knowledge, using standard legal researchmethodology, we then identify and interpret relevant legal instruments, with aparticular focus on international wildlife treaties. Lastly, we identify and assessfactors 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 asthe Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention on Migratory Species andWorld 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 oreliminating the biodiversity impacts of free-ranging domestic cats, in particularby (a) removing feral and other unowned cats from the landscape to the greatestextent possible and (b) restricting the outdoor access of owned cats.5. Factors that can influence or impair the application of these obligations includeconsiderations of feasibility, scientific uncertainty, the interests of cat owners andthe (perceived) interests of domestic cats themselves. Even if such factors may tosome extent explain why many authorities have hitherto failed to take effectiveaction to address the threats posed by free-ranging domestic cats, from a legal perspective these factors provide little ground for justifying non-compliance withinternational wildlife law.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Trouwborst, A and McCormack, PC and Martinez Camacho, E
Keywords: 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
Journal or Publication Title: People and Nature
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
ISSN: 2575-8314
DOI / ID Number: 10.1002/pan3.10073
Copyright Information:

© 2020 The Authors. People and Nature published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License, ( which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited

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