National Park

Dispute over national park cats erupts

A wildcat relaxes on a rock at Mount Bukhan against the backdrop of western Seoul, Jan. 27, 2021. (Yonhap)

SEOUL, Nov. 14 (Korea Bizwire)Feeding cats in national parks is an act of ecosystem disturbance and is strictly prohibited. However, a lack of awareness causes a series of conflicts among the public.

Recently, a number of complaints have demanded that authorities refrain from capturing and killing cats in Mount Seorak National Park or releasing them to places where they do not belong.

The dispute began with a banner that was unfurled last spring that said “feeding stray cats or wild animals in a national park destroys the environment.”

A visitor read the banner and misunderstood the park’s intent that officials were trying to “eliminate” stray cats in the area, and encouraged others to file complaints online.

For the ecosystem, cats are an external threat because they hunt small birds and animals, not necessarily to feed on them.

As such, cats that enter national parks, wetlands and other protected areas are considered “wild animals” and may be captured.

This contrasts with where cats are protected in towns and other areas by the Department of Food and Rural Affairs and local authorities based on the Animal Welfare Act.

Sources showed that a total of 1,269 cats were captured in national parks from 2015 to September this year.

Most captured cats are neutered and released back into their original habitat.

Captured cats were culled until 2017. For ethical reasons, however, captured cats have been released into the wild since 2018 after being neutered.

This, however, is not the complete solution. Castration only robs cats of their ability and will to breed. Castrated cats that are released continue to hunt and feed.

Cats have an instinct to protect their territory. Once neutered, however, they lose the ability to do so, allowing other cats to freely enter their territory, repeating the same problem over and over again.

Lina Jang ([email protected])