The UK Airdropped A Squad Of Cats Into Borneo

By Michael Van Duisen on Thursday, August 8, 2013
chute
“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