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What is a feral cat? A case study of legislative definitions for Hawaiian monk seal conservation

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Title:What is a feral cat? A case study of legislative definitions for Hawaiian monk seal conservation
Authors:Dwivedi, Vaibhavi
Contributors:Idol, Travis (advisor)
Kaneshiro, Mahealani (other)
Litton, Creighton (instructor)
Natural Resources and Environmental Management (department)
Masters of Environmental Management (department)
show 1 more
Keywords:Endangered Species
Invasive Species
Date Issued:May 2021
Abstract:The spread of toxoplasmosis (toxo) from the feces of feral cats is a leading cause of mortality for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi). To date, 12 monk seals in the main Hawaiian islands (MHI) and one seal in the North Western Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) have died from toxo in the last two decades. Given an estimated total population of ~1400 monk seals of which ~300 are currently found in the MHI, the number of seals that have succumbed to toxo highlight a significant threat to this critically endangered population. With approximately 300,000 feral cats living on the Island of O‘ahu alone, the potential severity of this deadly infection spreading to the Hawaiian monk seal population is high. To better manage the large and growing feral cat population, it is imperative that a uniform definition of ‘feral cat’ be implemented by the State of Hawaiʻi to inform the development and implementation of management policies across the state. The objectives of this project were to: (i) analyze feral cat definitions used in Hawaiʻi, (ii) compare Hawaiʻi’s feral cat management approaches with other U.S. states, New Zealand, and Australia, and (iii) draft legislative recommendations for defining feral cats in Hawaiʻi to serve as the basis of effective management policies. Sources for data collection for the first two objectives included extensive literature review from peer-reviewed journals, policies, and legislations. A 10-point rank system was created to analyze the effectiveness of existing definitions and policies. As a secondary output, a user-friendly website, ‘HICat’, was created to increase outreach and support long-term goals of this research. If implemented in Hawaiʻi, a uniform feral cat definition has the potential to set strong precedent for other island states to incorporate in their localized conservation strategies.
Description:The link to the website created as a secondary output of this project is
Pages/Duration:28 pages
Rights Holder:Dwivedi, Vaibhavi
Appears in Collections: 2021 Capstone Projects

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