Arts & Entertainment

Naked City: Can the katzenklavier save the bilby?

It was not the photo op that Taronga Park hoped for when the over-pampered little Prince George grabbed his fluffy toy bilby and hurled it away on a much-publicised visit to the zoo last week. Nevertheless, it was an appropriate visual metaphor for the plight of this endangered Australian marsupial – a favourite morsel for the rapacious feral cat.

Whilst the Royal circus might have done wonders for the sale of both chocolate and fluffy stuffed bilbies, these cute little critters are still doing it tough, surviving only in isolated pockets across the country. Where they once occupied over three quarters of mainland Australia, they are now contained in less than 20 per cent of their original habitat.

Drastic measures are needed, especially when it comes to combatting the threat posed by the burgeoning population of evil feral cats. A few weeks ago we were contacted by one of Australia’s more radical conservationists looking for exposure for an innovative new strategy to reduce feral cat numbers. The concept at first seemed ludicrous but the more we examined his proposal, the more it appeared that it could actually work.

We’ll call him Mr X and his plan involves the revival of a somewhat bizarre 17th century invention. The ‘katzenklavier’ is arguably the brainchild of noted German scholar Athanasius Kircher. Essentially what you have is a ‘cat piano’. A unique musical instrument consisting of a row of caged cats with different voice pitches, ‘played’ by a keyboardist driving nails into their tails.

Okay, shock, horror, outrage! Immediately we hear screams of animal cruelty with the RSPCA ready to pounce, but remember these are insidious feral killing machines and surely a little minor discomfort is nothing compared to the death and destruction that they reap. Mr X sees the Katzenklavier as a multi-purpose tool in eventually eradicating this menace and allowing highly threatened native animals to reclaim their habitat. Here’s how the gadget would work.

Mr X himself has already constructed a number of prototypes and has discovered that recordings made on the Katzenklavier – when replayed through large speakers in areas of high feral populations – cause the unwanted felines to scatter in all directions. In much the same way that bats were driven from the Sydney Botanic Gardens after being subjected to Metallica’s greatest hits. “I cut a whole CD of Nick Cave favourites on the Katzenklavier,” Mr X confided, “and it drove those ferals crazy!”

Here lies another use for this incredible meowing machine. With the ‘wobble board’ now in disgrace and the largerphone virtually forgotten, Australia is crying out for a distinct national instrument, to assert our presence on the global cultural landscape. Thousands of these contraptions could be manufactured and supplied internationally with a selection of pitch-tested feral cats.

With just a few YouTube clips and the usual social media buzz, the Katzenklavier would soon become a worldwide sensation and the demand for feral cats almost endless. Trappers from all over the country would descend on the outback, gathering literally millions of moggies for the live export trade. The Katzenklavier would quickly replace the household piano and no self-respecting rock or jazz band would be without a ‘katzen’ player in their ranks. Even the much-respected Eurovision Song Contest would abandon the usual cheesy vocalists in favour of tunes entirely interpreted on the magical pussy piano.

Sceptics and cynics will scoff at such a seemingly outrageous proposal but we see real merit in the concept. Rather than shooting or poisoning these undomesticated mousers, we are putting these renegade tabbies to good use in much the same way as we export camels to the Middle East. Who knows, if Australia is still a constitutional monarchy in 50 years time, the bilby-loving King George might return to Taronga Park, fanfared by a rousing rendition of God Save The King, played on you-know-what!