A New Community Project on Paros

Despite the perils of operating within a global pandemic, November saw the launch of a new collaboration between GAWF / Animal Action, FOUR PAWS International and three local welfare organisations: PAROSCAT, Paros Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and Animal Welfare Paros (FEP).

As an organisation, GAWF / Animal Action has a long-standing association with Paros and its animals. Our Equine Team has been conducting annual outreach trips to the island since 2011, forging close relationships with the local community while ensuring the working equidae are properly cared for, getting the vital treatment they need. We’ve also recently launched “Four Feet Free” on the island, a new campaign aimed at ending the traditional practice of hobbling through helping people to understand the suffering it causes and showing them alternative ways of controlling the movement of their animals.

The GAWF equine team on an early outreach visit, teaching local children about farriery

As in much of Greece, the situation with stray cats on Paros presents a huge challenge. While local welfare organisations and volunteers do their best to care for as many cats as they can, the ever-increasing population means that it’s a constant and uphill struggle. With so many of the cats relying on visitors for food, winters can prove especially tough, and this year’s pandemic-driven closures of restaurants and tavernas have made things much worse.

On neighbouring island, Syros, we’ve been supporting a population management effort for the past 3 years, and we can see the positive results of this kind of programme, first hand.

One of the many stray cat colonies on Paros, cared for by local volunteers

So, last year, we began discussions with FOUR PAWS International about funding a collaborative cat population management project on Paros to support the existing and on-going community-led welfare and neutering programme on the island. In the longer term, we’ve set ourselves an ambitious goal of neutering 90% of the entire estimated stray cat population, as well as supporting the implementation of other measures that will act to both improve the street cats’ lives and engage the local community.

Across November and December, our local partners on the island were able to reach a total of 186 cats, with 137 being sterilised and a further 49 either treated or vaccinated – a truly tremendous effort in the short term, given the current country-wide restrictions on movement.

A female stray caught by the volunteers at PAROSCAT, waiting to be neutered and returned
PAROSCAT volunteer Stelios, collecting neutered cats for release in Marmara

While it’s important to accept that there’s a huge amount of work to do to get the stray cat population of Paros under control, we’re drawing a lot of hope and positivity from the commitment of all the partners involved who, working together in a coordinated manner, can achieve more than any one of us could hope to alone. We believe we have now laid a groundwork that will drive real improvements for the cats of Paros throughout 2021 – and beyond.

Stray cats caught by the volunteers at PAWS, waiting to be neutered and returned.

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