Fifty-four cats rescued from one of the Channel Islands have new lives at an animal sanctuary.
The Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona invited visitors out to the center Tuesday to view the enclosure that's been set up for the felines.
San Nicolas Island is the outermost of the Channel Islands and has been the home to a large population of feral cats since at least the 1950s. The U.S. government owns the island and, two years ago, began efforts to remove the cats because they threaten the island's fragile ecosystem.
"They had an island that had a fragile ecosystem," Hazard said Tuesday. "They were charged with protecting the native wildlife on that island, and they had cats who, through no fault of their own, had been transported there and were having a negative impact on the native wildlife."
Authorities hoped to improve the nesting success for seabirds and protect the habitat of the Channel Island fox and the federally threatened island night lizard, according to a news release issued about the 4,000-square foot enclosure, which is covered with netting over the top to prevent escapes.
"I think it shows not only an interest in providing care for the animals but a tremendous amount of respect for their individual needs ... a grace and a compassion that's beyond the recognition that they need to be fed and housed, that they have very significant and unique needs," Hazard said, marveling at the creativity the sanctuary staff showed in creating the enclosure.
Ramona’s Fund for Animals Wildlife Rehabilitation Center keeps not only big cats like lions and mountain lions but also birds and a pygmy hippopotamus.