Feral animals can become a problem for tourism and wildlife. Feral dogs have been found begging for food on a couple of beaches and a few restaurants. The veterinary services have had to trap these dogs because of nuisance and public health issues.
The impact on wildlife is even worse. On small islands, especially ones like Seychelles in which evolution has taken place in the absence of mammalian predators like rats, cats and dogs, the presence of these animals can be devastating. For example, domestic cats have been responsible for the extinctions of at least 33 bird species worldwide. This has often happened on small islands where domestic cats becoming semi-wild, or feral.
In the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman, an urban wetland reserve adjacent to the national sports complex, feral dogs have wreaked havoc on birds in the past. As the local association managing this Sanctuary, Nature Seychelles has turned away from the traditional control methods of trapping or poisoning and started a new initiative – re-domesticating the dogs.
A brainchild of Nirmal Shah, the Chief Executive and himself an avid dog lover, the initiative has started to reap rewards. By befriending and regularly feeding the dogs outside the Sanctuary and close to the association’s headquarters the animals are now sleeping within the office compound rather than in the Sanctuary. “They have become very protective of this space and have become excellent guard dogs since our office is in a rather isolated setting”, says Shah.
“I think we need to proceed humanely in these situations”, continues Shah. But it can’t always be possible in all situations, he admits. Shah is asking the public not to discard unwanted animals so they become feral. He says this is a danger both to humans and wildlife. He also encourages dog and cat owners to take advantage of the brilliant campaign by another association, the SSPCA, to neuter pets. This is the best way to control the population of dogs and cats, he concludes.