Maradona decided to take the cat out… Measures to protect natural monuments

▲ Marado cat being protected at Jeju National University Veterinary Hospital. Provided by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage

Stray cats from Mara Island, which caused conflict by threatening wild birds such as horned ducks, which are designated as natural monuments, are being taken off the island.

The Ministry of Cultural Heritage said on the 17th, “As a result of the second meeting of the ‘Natural Conservation Zone Response Plan for Reducing Harm to Animals’, the horned ducks have already started arriving in Marado, so we decided to take all the stray cats out of Marado.” As the subject is ‘stray cat’, cats that are adopted and raised by residents are exempt from taking them out.

The horned duck is a rare bird with only around 5,000 to 6,000 left worldwide as second class endangered wildlife. I came to Marado around the middle of February, and recently two horned ducks were noticed. In a situation where there was controversy when cats in Marado were attacking ostriches, it was finally decided to take them out as ostriches were about to arrive.

An official from the Ministry of Cultural Heritage who attended the meeting said, “Since the cornea is dying, the decision was made to take the cat out.” The Ministry of Cultural Heritage intends to carry out the export first and draw up a plan for the safe management of the cats in consultation with related organisations. It was also decided to prepare separate guidelines on the number of cats left in the village and how to manage them.

Marado cats became a problem when residents brought them to catch mice, but the population quickly increased and killed horned ducks. It used to be close to 200 when it was plentiful, but is estimated to be around 80 now. According to the thesis ‘Analysis of Habitat Status, Habitat and Viability of Cats for the Conservation of the Horned Duck Population in Marado Island’ (Kim Yu-jin, 2019), 80 cats are enough to destroy the horned duck within 20 years.

Before this decision, four sick cats were transferred to the Veterinary College Animal Hospital in Jeju Island. Some pointed out the problem of passing through the council, but the Ministry of Cultural Heritage said, “Since treatment is impossible in Marado, it was passed with the permission of the Marado Village Residents’ Autonomy Committee (village head). It is not a matter to be discussed in the council to take sick cats that have been forced to come to Jeju Island for emergency treatment because local treatment is not possible,” he explained. The vet used a simple kit to examine and collect blood to select cats that needed urgent treatment.

▲ Marado’s cat with scars on her face. This cat was attacked and injured by other cats. Provided by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage

It was decided to take him out, but there are opposing opinions, so it seems that labor pains will continue. At the meeting that day, there was an opinion to promote step by step, about 10% instead of batch export, and an opinion against export.

Jeju Vegan Representative Kim Ran-yeong, who expressed an opposing view, said, “Because we are a vegan organization, we believe that any life should be cherished and respected for its lifestyle.” If it were otherwise, I would have represented the arrogance.” The Jeju vegan side sympathizes with the premise of protecting horned ducks, but is in a position that protective measures for cats, which are territorial animals, must be urgently prepared together. CEO Kim said, “Cats need a nest where their activity can be guaranteed, but they don’t seem to be interested in it.”

The Department of Cultural Heritage is in a position to disallow deer nets and repellents requested by the opposing party. Cats jump over roe deer, and repellants are ineffective in Marado, where the wind blows a lot. There is a case in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, where a closed school facility was used to create a cat school, but the Marado branch school is not closed and residents are waiting for students to attend one day, so they are known to object to being used as a facility other than school.

Reporter Ryu Jae-min