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BADEN-WÜRTTEMBERG

Cats in southern German town ordered into summer lockdown

Pet owners in part of a Baden-Württemberg town have been told to keep their cats indoors until the end of August to protect endangered birds.

A cat sitting in an animal shelter in Peine, Lower Saxony.
A cat sitting in an animal shelter in Peine, Lower Saxony. Cats in one German town may have to stay indoors this summer. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

Domestic cats in Walldorf-Süd, in the Rhine-Neckar district, won’t be able to roam and enjoy the outdoors this summer under the radical measure. 

The district office issued the order to cat owners over the weekend in a bid to protect crested larks, which are threatened with extinction.

Domestic cats in the southern part of the city are not allowed outside until the end of August 2022 – and from April to August for the next three years, reported a Stuttgart news site.

The survival of the species depends on “the survival of every single young bird”, the district said.

If a cat escapes, the owners have to report it to the authorities and try to get their pet indoors. Owners who flout the rules may face a fine up to €500.

And if a cat kills one of the six crested larks living in Walldorf, the owner can reportedly expect a fine up to €50,000.

However, the Wiesloch-Walldorf Animal Welfare Association said it would look into taking legal action against the general order, the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung reported on Wednesday.

“Please keep calm,” the association’s chairman Volker Stutz addressed the cat owners in a statement. “I assure you that we will do our best to stop this disproportionate measure.”

The crested lark is classified in the highest endangerment category on the red list for endangered species, according to the district’s notice. The bird is threatened with extinction, and last year, there were only three breeding pairs left in Walldorf, all in the south of the town.

Because the birds breed on the ground, they can often fall victim to cats. After lengthy consideration, the nature conservation authorities came to the conclusion “that preventing cats from roaming free in the danger zone” is proportionate.

The district said that because the bird is threatened with extinction “cats pose a particular threat and the measure is suitable, necessary and appropriate”.

Authorities recommend that outdoor cats be re-homed with family or friends who do not live in the affected area for the designated period, so they can get outdoors. 

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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: Looking abroad for airport workers, greeting cards and chimney sweeps

In our weekly roundup for Germany we look at what the government is doing to ease the air travel staffing crisis, very German greeting cards, lightning storms and the Schornsteinfeger - chimney sweep - lucky tradition.

Living in Germany: Looking abroad for airport workers, greeting cards and chimney sweeps

Germany looks for help abroad to ease aviation staffing crisis

Last week the German government made the exceptional move of stepping in to help private firms in the aviation sector restore their staffing levels. Ministers announced they will cut red tape to allow private companies to employ workers from abroad on a temporary basis, due to the chaos that we’re seeing in German airports and airlines. From long queues at security or when claiming baggage, to flights being cancelled, it can be a real nightmare to travel in Europe at the moment. One reader even contacted us to say he had to wait two and half hours on a plane in Düsseldorf because there apparently wasn’t enough baggage staff to load cases onto the flight. That’s why the German government says it will allow companies to employ staff from abroad at short notice. However, at the same time, ministers came down hard on the private sector for not preparing for the rising demand for travel. German’s Labour Minister Hubertus Heil Heil criticised many companies in the aviation industry for laying off staff in the pandemic – or not topping up reduced hours (Kurzarbeit) pay despite government support. 

Even if the sector manages to fill many positions, it will still take time to clear hurdles so it looks like we’re in for at least a few more weeks of stress if travelling by plane. And with more states about to go on their school holidays, it’s just going to get busier. Keep us posted on how it’s going in German airports if you’re on the move this summer – we’re always eager to hear your experiences. 

Tweet of the week

The dedication to cars and driving in Germany is quite something, as the tweet below shows. 

Where is this? 

Lightning over Frankfurt
Photo: DPA/Jan Eifert

There’s been a lot of mixed weather in Germany this week, with extreme heat, thunderstorms and hailstones depending on which part of the country you live in. This picture shows a spectacular storm on Thursday in the Frankfurt area. It was taken from the Großer Feldberg in the Taunus mountains.

Did you know?

I (Rachel) received my first visit in Germany from a chimney sweep (der Schornsteinfeger) on Friday. Although I don’t have an open fire in my flat, chimney sweeps in Germany are still needed once a year to check your heating system, check for gas leaks and carry out any other maintenance in that area. Did you know Germans also believe seeing a Schornsteinfeger brings good luck? Some say it comes from the olden days when sweeps cleared your chimney meaning you’d be able to cook again and reduced the risk of fires. It’s also meant to be especially lucky to see a chimney sweep on your wedding day or New Year’s Day. This is thought to be partly because traditionally chimney sweeps would collect the fee for their services on the first day of each new year, meaning they were often among the first to wish families a happy new year. Along with miniature pigs (which Germans also find lucky), horseshoes, ladybirds and four-leaf clovers, little chimney sweeps made out of marzipan or plastic are also given as a New Year’s gift to loved ones.

READ ALSO: Eight things German believe bring good luck 

A chimney sweeper in Wernigerode, Saxony-Anhalt.

A chimney sweeper in Wernigerode, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Bein

Some chimney sweeps (although not all!) wear a traditional uniform complete with top hat and silver buttons. Giving one of the buttons a twirl is said to bring good luck, but you’d have to politely ask them before doing it!  

Thanks for reading,

Rachel and Imogen @ The Local Germany 

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