MANGARATIBA, Brazil – All the locals knew the island just west of Rio de Janeiro was teeming with cats. They left food and even brought tourists. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and human support dried up, resulting in a gruesome scene witnessed by fishermen: a group of cats devouring others’ corpses.
Furtada Island, referred to widely as “Island of the Cats,” is 20 minutes by motorboat from the city of Mangaratiba, at one extreme of Brazil’s Green Coast, a vast swath of mountainous tropical forest and sandy coves dotted with hundreds of islands.
Over the years, fishermen tossed fish guts and any unneeded catch onto the island, while other kind souls left bowls of water and store-bought cat food. That has helped the island’s hundreds of residents stay fed, particularly the recently marooned cats that lack the skills of their wild-born brethren, which climb trees to raid birds’ nests.
When the pandemic forced people to quarantine, sunk tourism and shut restaurants that dish up seafood, boat traffic around the island fell sharply – and with it, the food and water deposited there.
Locals didn’t realize the horror playing out on the island until the fishermen reported it back in April.
“The number of boats fell, the number of tourists, and we saw the condition of those animals on the island,” said Jorge de Morais, 58, who works with a local group