Animals in the News

By Kiko Itasaka, NBC News Producer

KABUL – War-torn Afghanistan is not know for its kind treatment toward dogs. From the popularity of dog fights, to grinding poverty, care of man’s best friend has not been a top priority.

One former British soldier has taken on the battle to protect stray dogs and cats in her adopted country.

Louise Hastie and a team of Afghan nationals, operates the only official animal shelter in the country.

“We don’t turn any animal in need away,” said Hastie, who runs the Nowzad Animal Shelter in Kabul. Nowzad is named after the small town in Helmand where the first dog was adopted in 2007.

In six years, Nowzad has taken in thousands of animals of war,  many of which were adopted by soldiers serving all over Afghanistan. The charity has organized the transport of over 400 dogs and cats to be reunited with former soldiers in the United States and the United Kingdom.

“These are animals who kept them going, gave them the few minutes of being normal every day,” said Hastie. “It is unthinkable leaving a friend behind – so they are not going to want to leave a dog or cat behind.”

Read more at NBC News

Feral Cats Can Be Good For Wildlife

by Rebecca on October 1, 2013

in Animals in the News

5 Ways Feral Cats Do More Good Than Harm for Wildlife
An Australian study shows feral cats help some endangered animals survive. I say: “Well, duh!”

by   in

A group of scientists from the epicenter of the debate on community cat colony managementrecently made a discovery they termed “surprising.” A report in the journal Global Ecology and Biology showed that native mammals were most likely to die off on islands that had rats, but not cats, foxes, or dingoes.

I’m actually stunned that the scientists were surprised by this discovery. I only had to watch PBS shows and take high school science classes to learn how predator-prey relationships benefit prey animals. You’d think a bunch of Ph.Ds would have learned this lesson along the way, too. For those who need a refresher course, here’s how feral cats actually help prey animals to survive.

1. They kill other animals that cause harm

On Australian islands where feral cats were eliminated, rat populations rose exponentially. Rats are notorious for eating bird eggs, and as a result of being overrun by rats, bird populations on those islands were decimated.

2. They kill the weakest and slowest animals

By eating rodents or birds that don’t have the health and vitality to survive, or that lack the ability to camouflage themselves, feral cats help to assure that prey animal populations become stronger and more adapted to their environment.

3. They make prey animals smarter

Prey animals that learn that cats are to be avoided teach this lesson to their offspring. Those that get the clue will survive, and therefore the population as a whole will become smarter and more likely to live to reproduce.

4. They help to maintain the ecosystem

If prey populations rise too high, the impacts on the environment can be profound. After the elimination of feral cats in Australia’s Macquarie Island, rabbit populations exploded and rabbit grazing destroyed albatross habitats. By preying on those rabbits, feral cats helped to ensure that the island’s ecosystem remained stable.

5. They increase biodiversity

Because predators are more likely to kill animals that have a higher population, they make room for other animals that fill the same ecological niche. Shrews and birds both eat worms, for example, but if the shrew population rises high enough to threaten the birds’ ability to eat, feral cats will come to the rescue: they’re much more likely to eat shrews since there are so many more of them, therefore leaving more food for the birds.


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