Blacktip Island Wranglers Prep For Feral Cat Roundup

Blacktip Island officials are concerned a rise in feral cat numbers on the Caribbean island will devastate native wildlife and cause a health crisis. (photo courtesy Brisbane City Council)

Blacktip Island officials are concerned a rise in feral cat numbers on the Caribbean island will devastate native wildlife and cause a health crisis. (photo courtesy Brisbane City Council)

A spike in Blacktip Island’s feral cat population has prompted the Blacktip Theosophy Society’s Feral Cat Roundup this weekend to capture and neuter as many of the Caribbean island’s wild cats as possible.

“It’s an ad hoc sort of thing, dependent on cat population estimates,” said event organizer and society president Clete Horn. “They kill our native wildlife, and with so many cats, it’s a ticking time bomb public health-wise.

“The potential for hazardous people-feline interaction is off the charts,” Horn said. “There’s already been a couple cases of cat-scratch fever, and at least one divemaster’s been diagnosed with worms. Plus, the damn things keep peeing on my back porch.”

The two-day roundup requires all roped cats be neutered and released.

“A while back we people loose with .22 rifles and let ‘em pop as many cats as they could,” Horn said. “A month later we were eat up with rats.

“The roundup’s a way to balance out the cat and rat populations,” Horn said. “It’s an algorithm we’ve worked out based on how the Balinese rotate their rice crops to keep their rat population in check. It’s counterintuitive, but it works.”

“It’s like herding kittens, except they’re bigger and faster,” Theosophy Society wrangler Marina DeLow said. “And mean.”

“Beaters go through the brush whacking sticks to chase the cats into the corrals,” DeLow said. “We use fishing line for lassoes, and reinforced landing nets for the wily ones.”

Some island residents oppose the roundup.

“These cats are part of the ecosystem and have as much right to be here as anyone else,” local Protesting Inhumane Treatment of Animals president Harry Pickett said. “They need to be embraced, not roped and hog tied and snipped.”

Most islanders, though, are looking forward to the event.

“It’s adventure, it’s excitement and it rids us of pests,” resident Ginger Bass said. “If that’s not good, family entertainment, I don’t know what is. And the kids get to practice their lariat skills with some of the smaller cats.”

The weekend will also feature a greased-kitten chase for children as well as food stalls and craft booths with roundup-related products such as lassoes, heavy-duty gloves and landing nets. Prizes will be awarded for biggest cat captured and for the most cats captured.

The roundup concludes with Sunday afternoon’s Miss Kitty contest.

The island’s public health department is advising all participants and spectators to update their rabies vaccinations.

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Blacktip Island Mayoral Race Raises Immigration Ugliness

Blacktip Islanders gathered for an island hall meeting Thursday evening to discuss issues in the Caribbean island’s upcoming mayoral election.

Blacktip Islanders gathered for an island hall meeting Thursday evening to discuss issues in the Caribbean island’s upcoming mayoral election.

Blacktip Island’s mayoral race thrust immigration reform to the forefront of island politics Thursday after former mayor Jack Cobia demanded the immediate deportation of half the foreign workers on the Caribbean island.

Cobia is hoping to unseat first-term mayor Neville Crab.

“We got lots of good people on this island just begging for work,” Cobia said. “There’s way too many scuba hippies doing jobs locals could be doing. Chuck out the foreigners, problem solved. The current administration’s silence on this speaks volumes.”

Island politicos call Cobia’s plan an electoral Hail Mary.

“Jack’s trailing badly in the polls, so he’s built a straw man to compensate,” government watchdog Wade Soote said. “Sure, jobs are scarce on Blacktip, but so are people. Anyone able to keep a job has one.

“And the current mayor’s silent because he’s a bloody hermit crab,” Soote added. That’s why we elected him. He says nothing and does nothing. Best mayor we’ve ever had.”

Cobia’s rhetoric, though, has struck a chord with some locals.

“Every job that goes to some off islander means one of us’s going without,” laborer Dermott Bottoms said. “Ship five of them out, five of us got jobs.”

“It’s getting too crowded here,” local James Conlee said. “I pass people on the road all the time now. That never used to happen, you know. Most of them’re expats.”

But not all voters agreed.

“Dermott and his pals complain, but none of them’ve ever been able to hold a job for more than a week,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Their issue’s not lack of work, it’s lack of beer money.”

With immigration reform talk driving his poll numbers higher, Cobia has upped his effort in recent days.

“All the foreign workers are concentrated around the resorts on the west coast,” Cobia said. “We’re gonna put up a barbed-wire fence to keep them off the rest of the island.”

Cobia declined to disclose how he plans to finance the proposed fence or where he would acquire barbed wire on Blacktip Island.

“There’s plenty of backers, I guarantee,” Cobia said. “And willing workers. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.”

Despite Cobia’s recent rise in the polls, experts doubt it will be enough to carry the election in the fall.

“There’s only five registered voters on Blacktip Island,” Soote said. “And three of them are in jail on drunk-and-disorderly charges.”

Cobia, meanwhile, remains upbeat.

“Even if I don’t get elected, at least I got people talking about important issues,” he said.

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World War Two Aircraft Found On Blacktip Island Reef

Divemaster Alison Diesel investigates airplane wreckage from the World War Two Battle of the Blacktip Sea.

Divemaster Alison Diesel investigates airplane wreckage from the World War Two Battle of the Blacktip Sea.

Divemasters scuba diving off Blacktip Island’s rugged east coast Wednesday discovered the wreckage of an airplane believed downed in the World War Two Battle of the Blacktip Sea.

“We was looking at a stingray when we seen the wings and undercarriage,” Eagle Ray Cove divemaster Lee Helm said. “We brushed the rubbish off and there was the Tiperon Air Corp’s roundel, plain as my hand.”

“Those storms last week blasted out all kinds of sand, I guess,” said divemaster Alison Diesel. “I mean, we’d dove there before and never seen anything but fish and coral.”

The wreckage matches photos of the island’s Piper Cub mail plane shot down as it delivered the fatal blow to the invading Axis flagship.

“The Battle of the Blacktip Sea was minor, but decisive,” said island historian Smithson Altschul. “The Italians hoped to gain a foothold in Cuba. All that stood in their way was Blacktip Island and the Tiperon navy’s light frigate Frigate. It was outgunned and outnumbered by the Italian pocket destroyers Fianchetto and Giuoco Piano.

“Islanders loaded the mail plane with Molotov cocktails made from grain alcohol and rum bottles,” Altschul said. “The last bomb dropped took out the Fianchetto’s bridge just as the Piper got hit.”

“Mama seen it,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Said folks thought it was a fireworks show ‘til they heard hollering in Italian. After, any enemy sailors swam to shore, folks whacked ‘em with conchs and stuffed ‘em in the turtle kraal.”

The Tiperon government has declared the area around the wreckage a heritage site and banned scuba diving to discourage souvenir collectors. Local dive entrepreneurs Sandy Bottoms and Rich Skerritt, however, are lobbying to turn the site into a pay-per-dive scuba park with interpretive tours.

“This is our heritage,” Skerritt said. “We got a right to access. Got Battle Diver specialty courses lined up, you know. In English and Italian. The fees’ll raise money for more exploration. And other things.”

Island officials, meanwhile, commemorated the find by declaring a new public holiday.

“August was the only month without a bank holiday,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “It screamed for one. Hell, April has two holidays. This first-ever Battle Day’ll be a blast!”

Holiday festivities are works in progress, organized by local residents.

“Gonna start with a round-robin Boobies and Frigates tournament with lawn darts out back of the Last Ballyhoo,” said local James Conlee. “There’s free beer for all team members, and a free kamikaze shot if you get hit.”

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Red Herrings Invade Blacktip Island Reefs

Non-native red herrings have overwhelmed Blacktip Island in recent months, confounding scuba divers and angering residents.

Non-native red herrings have overwhelmed Blacktip Island in recent months, confounding scuba divers and angering residents.

Blacktip Island residents are scrambling to combat invasive red herrings causing dangerous levels of confusion on the Caribbean island’s reefs.

“No one’s sure how they got here,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said Thursday. “Where’s stuff like this ever come from? Our guess, they got dragged here, either unintentionally in a boat’s bilge, or on purpose by some yahoo.

“Either way, they’ve got to go,” Latner said. “They’re gobbling up our native species and wearing out our divemasters.”

Other scuba professionals are concerned about the threat the herrings pose to scuba diving guests.

“They’re beautiful and all, but they get our divers into some pretty gnarly jams,” Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “They shimmy and flash and you chase after them. Then they head for deeper water. We got guests going into deco left and right.

“There’s way more divers getting lost, too,” Kiick said. “They zone out following some bogus fish across the reef, and bang-o, next thing they know they’re three dive sites over. And out of air.”

After attempts to cull the herrings proved futile, government officials have shifted tactics to control their damage.

“For whatever reason, red herrings seem to thrive on this little island,” Marine Parks spokesperson Basil Kipper said. “We tried leading them into nets, but they wouldn’t follow, and quick as we would spear one, two more would take its place.

“Currently we’re urging divers to simply ignore them and hope they go away,” Kipper said. “Really, they’re only dangerous if one pays attention to them. The herrings, not the divers.”

Island leaders are demanding more proactive measures.

“These things are destroying our tourism product,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “All this talk about these damn fish’s got folks sidetracked from the important issues facing Blacktip. Just spear ‘em all, pronto, and restore diver confidence so we can refocus on extending our airstrip and expanding our resorts.”

Other residents are taking a more inclusive approach to the pests.

“We serve up red herrings at just about every meal,” said Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens. “Like it or not, they’re part of our island’s ecosystem. We tell our guests ‘accept them, embrace them, then eat them.’

“We’re all red herrings at heart, when you think about it,” Havens said.

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Blacktip Literati Retool Island’s Literary Festival

Blacktip Island Literary Festival organizers are urging attendees to read books, not fling them, at this year’s event.

Blacktip Island Literary Festival organizers are urging attendees to read books, not fling them, at this year’s event.

Writers, poets and playwrights will converge on Blacktip Island’s Heritage House Saturday for what organizers hope will be a violence-free second annual Blacktip Island Literary Festival.

“We’ve doubled our presence and are confident there’ll be none of the mayhem of last year’s litfest,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “If the narrative does go off course, the two of us will step in and edit the event.”

Festival participants say outside influences caused the ruckus at last year’s event, sponsored by the Tiperon Writers’ Interdisciplinary Trust and Flor de Caña rum.

“It was the free rum the sponsors doled out that caused the problems,” playwright Jerrod Ephesians said. “People blamed Antonio Fletcher and his pornographic alexandrines, but ‘Tonio was just the catalyst. Well, him and the Baptist Women’s League.

“Between the overturned scooters, the flung hardbound books and the dozen people in the medical clinic, though, it gave the local literary scene a black eye,” Ephesians said. “We’re asking participants and spectators to be on their best behavior this weekend.”

Some auteurs, however, scoffed at that request.

“Can’t no one promise restraint,” poet Antonio Fletcher said. “We’re artists, you know. We’re spontaneous, howling that eternal ‘yes’ at the moon. That’s creativity.”

Festival officials are confident new safeguards will ensure a peaceful festival.

“We’ve a more-structured agenda to emphasize love of literature, writing and reading over hooliganism,” event organizer Doris Blenny said. “We’ll administer breathalyzer tests before each writing workshop, panel discussion and author reading to maintain the festival’s intellectual focus. We’re only allowing paperback books in the venue, as well.

“We’ll have workshops on ‘Using Verbs in Every Sentence’ and ‘How To Write As Concisely As Humanly Possible to Avoid Any Unnecessarily-Wordy Verbiage In Your Prose and Poetry,’” Blenny said. “Panel discussions will include ‘Was Shakespeare Really Jane Austen?’ and ‘Plot: What Is It Good For?’

“To keep order, we’ve also moved the readings to first thing Saturday so people won’t be so sauced,” Blenny said. “Dermott Bottoms’ll kick things off performing his one-act play, Letters From Heineken.”

The festival’s high point will be Saturday evening’s cocktail mixer, featuring a free drink to any attendees who can recite the first paragraph of Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness. There will also be a belching Derek Walcott’s Omeros contest, with the winner receiving a mini-keg of Guinness stout.

All-writer air band The Smirking Metaphors will provide live music.

“We invited a bunch of literary agents and publishers, too,” Blenny said, “but none of them responded. I think they just want to attend incognito, in case things get hairy again.”

Participants are cautiously optimistic.

“It’s an artistic community,” Ephesians said. “Blacktippers love their literature. But we enjoy drinking rum and fighting, too. It’s a delicate balance.”

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Blacktip Island Divers Brace For Dockside Security Screenings

Skerritt Security scanning devices line the Eagle Ray Divers dock Friday, ready for scuba divers. Similar scanners have been installed at all Blacktip Island scuba resorts.

Skerritt Security scanning devices line the Eagle Ray Divers dock Friday, ready for scuba divers. Similar scanners have been installed at all Blacktip Island scuba resorts.

Beginning today, Blacktip Island scuba divers will undergo multiple security screenings before boarding dive boats due to threats made against the Caribbean island’s reefs.

“We got credible intel about attacks on the underwater environment,” Public Safety director Ferris Skerritt said. “These attacks are aimed at destroying Blacktip’s tourism industry and could result in the death of recreational divers, as well as untold fish and coral heads.

“We’ve called for, and received, the government’s full support in combating this threat,” Skerritt said.

The Tiperon Islands government has contracted security measures to Skerritt Security.

Local dive professionals dispute the threat’s seriousness.

“One out of context remark, and Barney Fife breaks out the prods and rubber gloves,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “It’s like last year’s War on Terriers fiasco, where ol’ Ferris rounded up all the island dogs for questioning. On the government dime, of course.”

Island business owners defend the screenings.

“The hell we’re not threatened! By eco-terrorists!” Eagle Ray Divers owner Rich Skerritt said. “A nutcase on one of our boats said, clear as day, he was gonna blow up fish. Then his accomplice referenced an ‘ayatollah.’ That’s a threat, context be damned.”

Witnesses disagreed.

“The dude said, ‘That blowfish was the bomb,’” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Alison Diesel said. “Then his drunk buddy slurred, ‘I, uh, told you so.’ People on Blacktip don’t make bombs, we get bombed.”

Security experts, however, are taking no chances.

“Each resort now has explosive trace detectors and millimeter wave scanners at the top of their docks,” Ferris Skerritt said. “Then X-ray backscatter machines and hands-on security personnel at each boat. You wont be able to sniff the reef without a thorough going over.”

The measures already have scuba diving guests complaining of overzealous screeners.

“Those chuckleheads groped me places I didn’t know I had,” scuba guest Bubba Gadgette said. “Two of ‘em. Four times! I mean, what could I possibly hide in my Speedo? Now, I enjoyed it and all, but they confiscated my booties for no reason.”

Officials dismissed the complaints.

“Of course it’s intrusive. And expensive,” Ferris Skeritt said. “We can’t take any chances. And the program’s an unqualified success: we’ve had zero attacks since we installed our system.

“We’re also looking at ways to protect the island’s reefs from lone-wolf shore divers,” Skerritt said. “No telling what some radicalized Cousteau-wannabe’s capable of. By God, we’ll scan them on the beaches and frisk them on the ironshore if need be. Cost be damned.”

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Divemasters Build Green Scooters From Repurposed Refuse

Roughed-out wheels and scuba cylinders for Re-Cycle scooters sit ready at a Blacktip Island workshop Thursday.

Roughed-out wheels and scuba cylinders for Re-Cycle scooters sit ready at a Blacktip Island workshop Thursday.

A pair of Blacktip Island divemasters have built a working prototype motor scooter made of repurposed items from the island’s garbage dump in an effort to reduce environmental damage on the small Caribbean island.

The scooter features wooden wheels made from downed power poles, a body fashioned from a condemned scuba cylinder and is fueled by biodiesel salvaged from island restaurant deep fryers.

“On a little island, sustainability’s the elephant in the booby pond,” Eagle Ray Cove divemaster and scooter co-creator Gage Hoase said. “The dump’s a ticking time bomb. So are all the cars burning fossil fuels and leaking motor oil.

“We’re killing two birds with one gadget here,” Hoase said. “There’s all kinds of good stuff in the dump, and every one of these scooters on the road means one less car.”

“We’re calling it The Re-Cycle,” Club Scuba Doo dive operations manager and co-creator Finn Kiick said. “The engine’s totally hermetic and powered by a perpetual motion hydraulic pump. Just push off, and vroom! Away you go. We wanted to name it The Flintstone, but the Hanna-Barbera suits tore us a new one over that.

“Each bike’ll be unique, depending on what people throw away,” Kiick said. “If a load of lawn furniture gets chucked, well, the next cycle’ll be a recumbent number and look like a chaise lounge. The beauty’s each one’ll be a document of what it was like to be alive on Blacktip at that certain time and place.”

Critics, however, have waxed less poetic.

“They’re not putting that junk on the public road,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “There’s no vehicle I.D. number, no way to register it, no way to insure it. And it’s not safe. People try to ride that thing, they’ll fill up the clinic before the day’s out.”

Other critics focused on the vehicle’s potential economic impact.

“Some rolling garbage dump that don’t use gas won’t help the island economy,” Skerritt Fuel president Ferris Skerritt said. “Getting by on a shoestring like some folks are, this thing could sink us all.”

Hoase and Kiick were quick to disagree.

“These bikes’ll sell like crazy,” Hoase said. “How can that be bad for the economy? And the rental market’s unmined gold for the taking.”

Kiick was more philosophical.

“Blacktip’s a chill tropical island. Who doesn’t want to come ride a scooter on a tropical island where no one has to know about it? And if the Re-Cycle falls apart, well, we’ve sped up the composting process, then, haven’t we?”

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