The UK Airdropped A Squad Of Cats Into Borneo

“There is a fine line between genius and insanity.” —Oscar Levant

In A Nutshell

During the 1950s, Borneo was overrun with rats, an unintended consequence of huge DDT sprays that aimed to kill malaria-spreading mosquitoes. Unfortunately, many cockroaches were also sprayed and were eaten by lizards, which were in turn eaten by cats, many of which died shortly after. The plan? Gather up reinforcement cats and have the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force drop them into the country by parachute. And yes, it totally worked.

The Whole Bushel

In the 1950s, the Dayak people of the island of Borneo were in the midst of a severe malaria outbreak, which was known to be spread by mosquitoes. In order to combat this problem, the World Health Organization decided to utilize DDT, which was not yet seen for the danger that it is. Yes, it was very effective at halting the spread of malaria but an unintended consequence arose. The cockroaches that infested the area were also covered with DDT, but they survived and spread the chemical to the geckos that ate them. Many of them survived, only to be eaten by cats which, because they didn’t have a strong resistance to DDT, succumbed to the pesticide and died.

With their natural predators weakened, the rat population shot up, spreading typhus and destroying many farmers’ crops. To alleviate the problem they unintentionally caused, WHO called upon the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force to assist them in a plan they called Operation: Catdrop.

The plan was pretty simple: Round up a squad of cats in the United Kingdom and ship them to Borneo. Because there was no way to truck them in from the shore and the villages were quite isolated, the RAF used a helicopter to drop the cats to a particularly hard-hit village of Dayak people by parachute, along with some other supplies. When they landed, the cats had a veritable feast of rats and helped restore ecological balance.

Show Me The Proof

Airborne Cats
Operation Catdrop: An Altogether More Bizarre Approach To Tackling Invasive Species
The Day They Parachuted Cats On Borneo: A Drama Of Ecology

  • Hillyard

    I would love to have been a fly on the wall when this was suggested. ‘Air drop cats???? Are you nuts! Oh wait you mean it actually works…’

    • rhijulbec

      Would you mind explaining why DDT should still be used? I am not being sarcastic, I really want to understand. I heard its the worst of the worst. But here in Canada, what do we know about malaria? Info please?

      • rhijulbec

        Sorry…I replied to the wrong post…

  • Adeel

    You might have just given new inspiration to lolcats

  • pepper

    One question? How would the fingerless little cats pry themselves from their parachute harness? Running around chasing rats would be taxing dragging a chute and cord wouldn’t it?

    • Michael Van Duisen

      The parachutes were placed around the box which the cats were in. They didn’t wear them like people do.

      • TheLesserWeevil

        I can’t be the only one amused at the thought of a cat parachuting like a human, can I? I hope they played Ride of the Valkyries too.

        • Glengarry Ricky Ross

          LMAO! In a cat tone… Meow, meow,meow.. meoooww

      • Michael Kannon

        They didn’t have their ears sticking out of little cat helmets?

        • Michael Van Duisen

          No. But that would have been adorable.

  • edzyl blane

    So, because of the DDT presence, wouldn’t the dropped cats die as well after eating the rats?

    • Bails903

      I’m just throwing out a guess here but I’m guessing that the DDT in the area had dispersed and the cats were no longer in danger of it

  • Prolepak

    So you’re telling me my British responsible with the flooding of cats in my country? hmm..

    • guest

      Aren’t you glad your ancestors didn’t starve from the rats eating all the crops???

  • philipmarie

    This is so unbelievably awesome it transcends the concept to infinity.

  • Polaris

    this is giving me flashbacks of “The Longest Day”

  • Keeblertex

    The complete ban in DDT is such a travesty in places like Africa where millions of children die each year from malaria.

    • Absolutely agree

      • rhijulbec

        Tell me more. I am ignorant of the facts, really, so why is DDT the best way? Did it not almost eradicate many bird species? I understood it to be deadly to everything, even messing up genetics. More info?

    • rhijulbec

      Would you mind explaining why DDT should still be used? I am not being sarcastic, I really want to understand. I heard its the worst of the worst. But here in Canada, what do we know about malaria? Info please?

      • Keeblertex

        Hey. I’m by no means a scientist. But it’s a fact that there is a small chance that DDT causes cancer in some people. It’s also a fact that it was extremely effective at controlling mosquitos and malaria. Since its ban, millions of children in Africa have died from malaria. To me, the reward outweighs the risk. I no nothing about its danger to birds. But the danger that African children face is horrible.

        • rhijulbec

          I wonder how this product could be used without all of the horrible side effects? And why had something comparable not been found? So many children dying every year makes my heart sad and you would think something more than buying nets could be done. I know malaria is a dreadful disease.

        • Katzefrecker

          DDT is dangerous to both animals and humans. It causes some species of birds to lay eggs with shells that are so thin, that when the mother bird sits on the nest, the eggs break. It also kills cats. You might want to read the Wikipedia (the free encyclopedia) article on DDT. Also, both “DDT as a Cause of Cat Deaths” and “Parachuting Cats and Crushed Eggs” by Patrick T. O’Shaughnessy are worth reading.

          Recently MSN Healthy Living posted a story by HealthDay Reporter titled: “New Malaria Vaccine Shows Promise.” This is good news.

  • Costanza

    aww I can see naughty cats strapped to their little parachutes, wearing goggles and little helmets…

  • Glengarry Ricky Ross

    I wish they filmed it..

  • ℓα∂у

    I’m from Borneo and I’m from one ethnic from the Dayak people and I’ve never heard of this. Hmm..

    • JosieHolford

      There actually was an RAF cat drop. But the cats were just over 20 in number and were just part of a larger supply drop that included six cases of stout for an ailing chieftain.

  • JosieHolford

    The cats were dropped in baskets. Over 20 of them. together with six cases of stout. For the facts – check out http://www.josieholford.com/the-truth-about-the-flying-cats-and-the-cartons-of-stout-2/

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