The Day They Parachuted Cats On Borneo

Yup. Cats raining down on the jungle. Dropped from airplanes. Not in individual kitty parachutes with goggles and flight jackets, but dropped from the sky nonetheless.

This story, as dramatized in the fascinating children’s book, “The Day They Parachuted Cats in Borneo“, is that DDT was sprayed by the World Health Organization to kill off malaria-carrying mosquitos but also affected the caterpillars in people’s roofs which lead to them eating the straw roofs up, leading to many collapsing houses, and then the lizards started eating the caterpillars, which slowed the lizards down enough so that cats could catch them and eat them, poisoning the cats. With the cats out of the picture, the rats took over and no one prefers a rat infestation to mosquitos. So new cats were brought in from Australia.

Amazing. For want of a nail… You change one thing… One tiny thing and then, rats.

Apparently this incident was described in The New York Times, November 13, 1969. “DDT Exemplifies Peril in Technological Gains; Cornell Ecologist Describes How the Cost of Progress Is Sometimes Too High”. But I don’t know for sure because I am not going to pay to access the article and google can’t find it replicated online.

And there’s an odd radical children’s book all about it! People dropped Australian cats on Borneo.

In a 1994 article in the NYTimes, the story was also related as part of “Books of The Times; Take Woe and Blend It with Humor” by Janet Maslin, in which she relates the narrator of Without a Hero Stories By T. Coraghessan Boyle Viking, describing how “and by the time we dropped the cats, well, the people were pretty hungry, and I supposed it was inevitable that we lost a good proportion of them right then and there.”

Meow.

If you’re interested in reading this gem, it is available online as a slide show presentation on slideshare.

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