Poster Presentation 64th International Conference of the Wildlife Disease Association 2015

Protecting Critically Endangered Sea Turtles from Invasive Predators in the Caribbean (#133)

Luis Cruz 1 , Tara Agostini 1 , Kimberly Stewart 1 , Fortune Sithole 1 , Don Bergfelt 1 , Darryn Knobel 1
  1. Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, Frigate Bay, BASSETERRE, Saint Kitts and Nevis

In the island of St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) predates on nests and hatchlings of critically endangered hawksbill and endangered green sea turtles. Mongooses are one of the 100 worst invasive species and they are responsible for extinctions and population declines of wildlife in the Caribbean and other locations where they were introduced. With this project we will provide an immediate benefit for critically endangered sea turtles, while obtaining baseline data for managing an invasive predator. By characterizing reproductive features of mongooses we will obtain important information for future research on non-lethal methods for fertility control. From a series of trapping of mongooses from the sea turtle nesting sites along with fitting a proportion of individuals with VHF telemetry collars, we will obtain data on population ecology that will be critical to understand population trends, habitat range and movement patterns. By testing for rabies virus antibodies and for leptospira spp. we will assess the potential of mongooses as reservoirs of these important zoonotic diseases. We will investigate on the social dimensions (public attitudes, values, and knowledge) of invasive species management and wildlife conservation that will be instrumental for designing outreach and education efforts. This will also ensure public support that is a determinant concept for success and sustainability in future mongoose population control programs. Finally, the data generated of these various aspects will be critical for future research on wildlife conservation, animal welfare and invasive species management in St. Kitts and other regions in the Caribbean. This project is currently underway and we will present an update of the main findings during the conference.