Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Feral cats threaten endemic Barau's Petrel

Faulquier, L., Fontaine, R., Vidal, E., Salamolard, M., & Le Corre, M. (2009). Feral Cats Felis catus Threaten the Endangered Endemic Barau's Petrel Pterodroma baraui at Reunion Island (Western Indian Ocean). Waterbirds,32(2), 330-336.

Cats (Felis catus) were probably introduced to Reunion Island (Western Indian Ocean) in the seventeenth century and feral populations are now spread over all anthropogenic and native habitats. The diet of feral cats living in the breeding habitat of Barau's Petrel (Pterodroma baraui), an endemic and threatened seabird of Reunion Island, were studied. Results from the analysis of 217 scat (333 prey items) showed that Barau's Petrel were the most common prey of feral cats, followed by introduced rodents. Numerous dead birds at breeding colonies that had been killed by cats were found, 58% of the birds were adults. Given the high sensitivity of the population growth rate of a long-lived seabird to any additive mortality of adults, these results are particularly worrying. As this species is also threatened by massive light-induced mortality of fledglings, it is highly likely that this population is declining. A control of cats at breeding colonies is urgently needed to save this species from extinction.

Pinet, P., Salamolard, M., Probst, J.M., Russell, J.C., Jaquemet, S. & Le Corre, M. 2009. Barau’s Petrel Pterodroma baraui: history, biology and conservation of an endangered petrel. Marine Ornithology 37: 107–113.

The Barau’s petrel Pterodroma baraui is an endangered gadfly petrel endemic to Reunion Island. It nests in pristine cloud forests between 2200 m and 2800 m above sea level. Although locally abundant, this species is one of the least-studied seabirds in the world. The lack of basic biological information constrains effective conservation action. In this paper, we compile information on past and present status and distribution, ecology, threats and conservation actions. The objectives were to: (i) summarize current knowledge and identify major gaps, (ii) outline major threats to Barau’s Petrel and (iii) propose management actions to mitigate those threats. Critical gaps in our knowledge include (i) a lack of precise demographic parameters, (ii) the exact distribution of this species at sea and the factors that influence it, and (iii) habitat requirements associated with nesting. Barau’s Petrel is classified endangered (International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List 2008). The major threats include, in order of importance, predation by alien mammals, light-induced mortality and modification of nesting habitat. These threats affect the various age classes of the population (eggs, chicks, juveniles and adults) differently. A recent modelling exercise suggested the extinction of Barau’s Petrel in fewer than 100 years, attributable to feral cat predation at breeding colonies in the absence of cat control. The recent establishment of a National Park on Reunion Island should unify conservation and research actions, and prioritise controlling feral cats in breeding colonies. This control should commence as soon as possible in association with a dedicated education program on the effects of feral cats on the Barau’s Petrel population.

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