Operation Cat Drop

In lieu of Friday Cat Blogging:

In the early 1950’s, the Dayak people of Borneo suffered a malarial outbreak. The World Health Organisation (WHO) had a solution: to spray large amounts of DDT to kill the mosquitoes that carried the malaria. The mosquitoes died; the malaria declined; so far so good. But there were unexpected side effects. Amongst the first was that the roofs of the people’s houses began to fall down on their heads. It seemed that the DDT had also killed a parasitic wasp which had previously controlled thatch-eating caterpillars. Worse, the DDT-poisoned insects were eaten by geckoes, which were eaten by cats. The cats started to die, the rats flourished, and the people were threatened by outbreaks of typhus and plague. To cope with these problems, which it had itself created, the WHO was obliged to parachute 14 000 live cats into Borneo. Operation Cat Drop, now almost forgotten at the WHO, is a graphic illustration of the interconnectedness of life, and of the fact that the root of problems often stems from their purported solutions.

It seems that the actual number of cats dropped may have been exaggerated slightly:

I should note here that there was an error in a previous version of this article. Accounts of this story across the internet cite the number of cats dropped as 14,000(!), a number that boggles the mind when you consider the logistics involved in pulling off such a maneuver. Even the New York Times, in a 1969 story, cited incorrect numbers. In fact, it appears that the number was in fact on the order of 10’s of cats. Specifically a British Royal Air Force Operations Record Book from March 13, 1960 lists an RAF flight out of Changi, Singapore that parachute-dropped various stores (seeds, stout for a chieftain) and “over 20 cats to wage war on rats that were threatening crops.”

(via Reddit)