Population Control of Wild Cats in East Iceland Hotly Contested

Efforts to cull stray cats in the Fljótsdalshérað district of East Iceland have met with severe criticism from a local organization that aims to safely monitor and release or else find homes for these villikettir, or wild cats, RÚV reports.

Villikettir á Austurlandi, or ‘Wild Cats in East Iceland,’ is a nonprofit that operates under the auspices of the Villikettir animal welfare organization. Per the description on their Facebook page, the organization aims to “care for wild and homeless cats in the region, providing them with shelter and food. The organization operates according to the ethos of TNR: Trap – Neuter – Release.” The aim of this approach is to control the population of wild cats without killing them. The cats taken in by Villikettir are dewormed and vaccinated before the staff attempts to get them used to being around people and find them homes. If the cats can’t be tamed, they are released again, but the organization ensures that they have access to shelter and food.

Villikettir has struck agreements with six municipalities to take the lead on controlling their wild cat populations, but Fljótsdalshérað rejected their assistance. Instead, the municipality intends to set traps for wild cats. Residents have been told to keep their pet cats indoors at night from February 18 to March 8. Any wild cats that are caught during this time period will be euthanized. Villikettir asked to take possession of these cats so they would not be put down, but their request was denied.

Fljótsdalshérað mayor Björn Ingimarsson says the municipality is acting in accordance to the law. After consultation with the Public Health Authority and the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), he says, it’s clear that it isn’t permissible to collaborate with Villikettir under the terms that organization has set out. A letter from MAST on the subject notes that wild cats are categorized as semi-wild animals and must either be provided with a permanent home or euthanized. Likewise, it is not permissible to release animals that have grown up with people into the wild. Villikettir cannot, according to the letter, guarantee these animals the welfare required by current laws related to domestic animals. The ear tagging system that the organization suggested is also said to be illegal.

Villikettir á Austurlandi says that in the year it has been operational, it has provided services for 54 cats, most of which were found new and permanent homes. Only six cats needed to be released back into the wild.

Icy Road Warning Throughout Country

Snowstorm Iceland

Travelers should expect ice on all main roads in the capital area as well as on roads throughout the country, RÚV reports.

According to a forecast from the Icelandic Met Office, while snow storms are expected around most of the country this weekend, the Northeast should enjoy clear skies for the next few days, although it will get steadily colder. South and East Iceland can expect high winds and snow or sleet today, as well as rain along the coasts. Northwest Iceland will likely avoid precipitation for most of the weekend.

South and East Iceland will get warmer tomorrow, allowing for a thaw in those regions. However, a northeasterly wind on Sunday, will bring more snow and sleet, and the temperature will drop again. This will lead to roads icing over in this region.

In the West and Southwest, there will be a snowstorm tonight and considerable snow cover come tomorrow morning. West Iceland will also get a lot of snow, and road conditions will be icy. There will be considerable ice throughout the Westfjords, as well as intermittent snowstorms. North, Northeast, and East Iceland will have widespread ice. All main roads in the capital area are expected to be icy all weekend.

The icy road warning is an especially important one for drivers to heed given that icy driving conditions lead to a serious accident on the south coast only yesterday.

Drivers are reminded to check up-to-date weather conditions (in English) on the Icelandic Met Office website (here) and road conditions on the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration website (here). Safe Travel Iceland is also a valuable resource (in English, German, French, Chinese, and Icelandic) for safe driving and traveling tips, as well as important alerts.

Iceland Lags Behind Nordics on Parental Leave

preschool kindergarten kids children child

Iceland lags behind the other Nordics on parental rights and parental leave, says Ingólfur V. Gíslason, a sociologist at the University of Iceland. RÚV reports that this is among the findings that Ingólfur and his research collaborator, sociology doctoral student Ásdís Arnalds, discussed in a radio interview on Rás 1.

Iceland is the only Nordic country in which parents are, for instance, left to come up with their own childcare solutions between the end of their paternity leave and when their child starts attending pre-school, at around two years old. This is a significant problem, says Ingólfur, which works against the equality-driven thinking that motivates parental leave laws.

A great deal of important data on the subject started being collected in 2001 by professor Guðný Eydal. One of Guðný’s projects was to survey parents whose first child was born in 1997.

“Parental leave laws took effect in 2000,” remarked Ásdís. “So we have data that applies to parents who had their first child before the laws took effect. The survey was repeated in 2007, then again in 2014, and we’ve just started administering the survey for the fourth time.”

‘Enormous Changes’ in Parental Participation Over a Short Time

Ásdís noted that she and Íngólfur had examined parental participation in the care of their children, as well as their participation in the labor market after the end of their parental leave.

For his part, Ingólfur said that what has had the most significant effect in this regard was when parental leave compensation shifted from flat rates to 80% of the parents’ typical wages. “The most obvious change is that parental cooperation—that’s to say, the number of parents that qualify as dividing [care-taking responsibilities] equally—has steadily grown throughout the time that we’ve been conducting these surveys.”

Ingólfur continued that when considering the data on the first three years of a child’s life, much has changed in the short period of time since the first group of parents (those whose first child was born in 1997) were surveyed. “On one hand, we have the lines that show that mothers are the main caretakers, and on the other the lines that show that this [caretaking] is equally divided. They never overlapped for these three years. Now, however, they have started to overlap when the child is ten or eleven months old. So we’ve seen enormous changes over these relatively few years. That fulfills, at least in large part, one of the primary goal of these laws, that is to say, to ensure that children are cared for by both of their parents.”

Ingólfur said that Icelandic fathers come across well in the survey conducted by the World Health Organization every few years. There is a question on the survey, for instance, in which young people are asked about how easy it is to come to their parents with personal problems. “There have Icelandic young people ranked their fathers considerably higher than they did the last time this was done—here we had young people who had enjoyed the full benefits of these changes, that Icelandic fathers topped world lists when it came to teenagers being able to approach them with personal problems. Icelandic mothers have always been at the top, but fathers have now got there, too.”

Parental Leave Shorter in Iceland Than Any Other Nordic Country

Ásdís said that data shows that mothers in Iceland are spending an increasing amount of time at home with their children in order to bridge the childcare gap between when shared parental leave ends and preschool begins. Fathers took less leave time after a ceiling was set on leave pay in 2004, and then even less following the financial crash in 2008. Around that same time, mothers began spending more time at home with their kids and on partial leave, for instance by stretching a six-month leave payment across a twelve-month period in order to reduce the amount of time that the child spent in paid, private childcare with a day mother or father, says Ásdís.

In all of the other Nordic countries, children are either taken into preschool right after the end of paternal leave or parents are entitled to subsidies during the childcare gap. Ingólfur says it’s interesting that Iceland is now on the third majority government that has sought to extend parental leave, and yet, still nothing has been done on this issue.

Ingólfur co-authored a book entitled Parental Leave, Child Care and Gender Equality in the Nordic Countries in 2012. It’s available here, as a full-text .pdf, in English.

Three Airlifted to Hospital After Car Accident on South Coast

A collision involving two vehicles on Sudurlandsvegur in South Iceland ended with three people being transported to the hospital by helicopter and a fourth sustaining less serious injuries, RÚV reports.

All four of the accident victims are foreign citizens, although their nationalities were not disclosed by police. There were two passengers in each vehicle. According to the Suðurland police, the driver of one of the cars lost control on an icy patch of road at around 6 pm on Thursday night, and the cars collided. The vehicles crashed at high speed, flipping one of them. One of them was so damaged that two of the passengers had to be cut from wreckage.

Police closed the road between Vík and Kirkjubæjarklaustur just after 7 pm while an initial investigation was made, and it was not reopened to traffic until almost 10 pm.

Serious traffic accidents have become unfortunately common in Iceland of late, and many such incidents occur in heavily trafficked South Iceland. In early January, three British citizens lost their lives when a car when a car drove off the bridge over Núpsvötn on the south coast. In terms of fatalities, this was one of the worst car accidents in Icelandic history.

In the middle of the month, a thirteen-year-old was hit by a car when walking to school. The victim did not sustain any serious injuries, but parents and concerned locals took up informal crossing guard duty after the event.

Then, at the end of January, a rental car collided with a school bus on a single-lane bridge on the road between the two popular tourist attractions, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir. Luckily, no people were injured in the crash, but both vehicles were totaled.

At time of writing, there was no report on the condition of Thursday’s accident victims.