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Tuesday, April 25, 2023
DLNR Chair Jumps in After Police Face off With Mob ... of Waikoloa Cat Feeders
By Video @ 6:49 PM :: 4584 Views :: Hawaii County , Environment, Police

Waikoloa Cat Protesters Citations, April 18, 2023.mov from Hawaii DLNR on Vimeo.

To view video please click on photo or view at this link: https://vimeo.com/819005877 

CAT FEEDING PROTEST RESULTS IN TWO CITATIONS FOR ILLEGAL TAKE OF NĒNĒ 

News Release from DLNR DOCARE, April 18, 2023

(WAIKOLOA, HAWAI‘I) – Two women were cited by officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources (DOCARE) tonight during a protest by feral cat activists.

About 50 people, some carrying large bags of cat food, showed up in a rear parking lot of the Queens’ Marketplace Shopping Center to protest the property owner’s decision to have three cat feeding stations removed, after being warned by DLNR that cat food was attracting nēnē, the Hawai‘i State Bird. The situation came to the attention of DLNR from concerned citizens.

Both women, with Waikoloa addresses, were cited for prohibited take of endangered species (HRS 195-D), after they allegedly put bowls of cat food on the ground. Both women were also informed by a Queens’ Marketplace security officer that they were trespassing and were no longer allowed anywhere on the property. A third woman was issued a warning after being spotted pouring cat food into bowls behind a shed.

A local feral cat feeding group mobilized about 50 people to protest the decision to stop feeding feral cats at Waikoloa.

DLNR along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), has legal responsibility for protecting native Hawaiian species, including our nēnē. Nēnē are listed as an endangered species under Hawai‘i state law and are listed as a threatened species under federal law. Law enforcement is required to take action to prevent feeding of nēnē, which is considered illegal take (a negative impact on a threatened or endangered species). Additionally, in this case the landowner is not supportive of establishing or maintaining feeding stations on their property.

Feral cats can be serious predators of our native species and can vector deadly diseases including toxoplasmosis. For this reason, the DLNR has previously noted its support for keeping cats indoors and not feeding or maintaining cat colonies, as described in Hawaiʻi Invasive Species Council Resolution 19-2, supporting the keeping of pet cats indoors and the use of peer-reviewed science in pursuing humane mitigation of the impacts of feral cats on wildlife and people.

In a statement issued today DLNR said, “As animal lovers, we strongly believe that keeping cats indoors is better for cats and better for the native wildlife, including the nēnē, for which we are responsible.”

# # #  

DLNR CHAIR MEETS WITH ISLAND FERAL CAT ADVOCATES

DLNR, Apr 25, 2023

(WAIKOLOA, HAWAI‘I) – At the direction of Governor Josh Green M.D., DLNR Chair Dawn Chang met today with the principals of ABayKitties, the organization that has provided cat food at a trio of feeding stations at the Queens’ Marketplace shopping center. 

Last week, property owner Alexander & Baldwin (A&B) removed the feeders after learning that as many as a dozen nēnē (Hawaiian goose), were also eating cat food. 

In Chair Chang’s meeting this morning with ABayKitties, she reiterated that DLNR is required by law to protect nēnē, an endangered species under state law, and a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. 

Chang explained when nēnē eat cat food, it can make them sick and can even kill them. Toxoplasmosis, a disease carried by cats, can also kill birds and critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals. Feral cats are among the most prolific predators of numerous near-extinct native forest birds.  

Chang told ABayKitties that she appreciates their passion but pointed out that native Hawaiians, numerous conservation organizations, and many local residents strongly support the protection of nēnē and other native animals, birds, and mammals. Feeding wildlife like nēnē can ‘habituate’ them to being around people which leads to more frequent car strikes, and even the abduction of young birds, as happened in Hilo last month. 

Dozens of e-mails and phone calls received by DLNR and A&B show widespread support for stopping the feeding of feral cats:  

I wanted to send you my mahalo and STRONG SUPPORT for your actions to protect native wildlife at Queens’ Marketplace on Hawaiʻi Island. I am a cat lover and professional wildlife biologist, who has been following the DLNR’s actions regarding closure of the large cat feeding station with great interest. Your actions were pono, legal, and necessary for our state to move forward with the right thing for our native wildlife. 

I wanted to reach out today to personally thank you for doing the right thing. Feral cat colonies are a serious issue across the Hawaiian Islands, and I appreciate you taking a leadership position here in ensuring that it was closed down. I grew up with (indoor!) cats and loved them dearly. I care about animals and animal welfare, and while operating feeding stations *seems* like a humane thing to do, it is clear that these feeding stations are in fact terrible for the cats themselves. 

When I read that you and DLNR had closed down the large feral cat feeding station at Queens’ Marketplace I applauded your positive action. We must save our native bird species. We must protect our people from toxoplasmosis. You did the right thing. 

While there have been no recent statewide surveys of the feral cat population, estimates put the number into the hundreds of thousands. On Hawai‘i Island, a 2021 survey of the nēnē population puts the number of birds at only 1,074. Statewide, the same survey indicated a population of 3,881. 

Chang shared that DLNR will be ramping up education efforts, so whole communities can be a part of protecting native species and figure out a long-term solution to give cats appropriate, safe, and loving indoor homes.

On April 11, during a protest by feral cat advocates, two women were cited for the illegal take of an endangered or threatened species. Those citations will require court appearances next month. Private property owners such as A&B have the right to decide what kinds of activities are permitted on their lands. 

The DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) is preparing informational flyers to distribute to property owners and individuals to educate people about how to avoid harming nēnē. The department has been in regular contact with area legislators who want to find a permanent solution and is also arranging meetings with Hawai‘i County and with humane societies, to work collaboratively. 

Chair Chang has consistently stated, “This is not just a Waikoloa issue. This is not just a Hawai‘i Island issue. This is not an issue of lovers of feral cats versus lovers of native wildlife, so this is a problem without easy or readily identifiable solutions. Our mission is to protect Hawai‘i’s unique and precious wildlife. We take that seriously and to heart. While we have compassion for all living creatures, our singular mission is to protect our native threatened and endangered species from all threats.”

RESOURCES 

(All video/images courtesy: DLNR)

HD video – Waikoloa citations (April 18, 2023) 

HD video and photographs – Nēnē and cats at Waikoloa (April 17, 2023): 

Photographs – Waikoloa citations (April 18, 2023) 

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