Stephen Mendes of the Department of the Environment said the question was recently asked if a donkey was an invasive species. “It is an interesting question as we usually consider sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, donkeys, fowls, dogs and cats as domesticated animals raised in an agricultural or home setting that offer services such as food, fibre, protection, companionship and labour.
“However, when these domesticated animals spread outside of their managed domain and become a threat not only to biological diversity but also a nuisance to the general population and impacting on their livelihood, they have transitioned to invasive alien species status.”
Mendes was speaking at the opening of the 2016 International Workshop of the Invasive Alien Species (IAS) Management in the Caribbean UK Overseas Territories. The conference sponsored by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) was hosted by the Montserrat National Trust at the complex in Salem.
Last Friday, Discover Montserrat sat with several of the directors of national trusts and national parks from the overseas territories to discuss pets as pests and what we can all do to protect our natural habitat.
“If you feed it you own it.” That is one of the mantras the directors use as it relates to people who feed stray cats and dogs. Left unchecked the animals reproduce in the wild.
“Cats are very efficient killers,” explained Lynda Varlack of the BVI National Parks. While humans have an emotional attachment to cats as pets, when out out of control they can eradicate entire species of lizards, iguanas and birds.
Montserrat’s donkey problem in the Lookout community is being managed through the introduction of birth control for the animals. The culling of goats and pigs in the Exclusion Zone has been another way the island is keeping the over population of domestic animals under control.
As with animals, the introduction of foreign plants is jeopardizing the local flora and fauna of the islands. The Cayman Islands National Trust is working to get rid of the Logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum) tree. The tree, which originated in South America was an important source of dye and was initially planted to use for export. However, the trees continued proliferation cuts off the natural light to native plants and they are dying out. Travellers bringing in invasive plants can be detrimental to local flora and fauna.
The Casurina or Weeping Willow on Montserrat has very shallow roots which increases erosion. It also blocks out the light from other vegetation and its popularity on local beaches means that it’s affecting the sand. “There are economic implications for our tourism when we don’t have any sand on our beaches,” explained Sarita Francis of the Montserrat National Trust. “This is a cross-sector issue.”
As humans are the primary reason for the introduction of invasive species to the Caribbean islands, it is critical that public awareness be increased. Partnerships with entities such as the Police, Customs, Departments of Environment are essential to taking control of the problem, said Elizabeth Radford of the RSPB.
Radford shared that the group has agreed to developing biosecurity protocols. This, she said, is to be done in collaboration with border control as this is a vital area where breaches occur. The group also agreed that firearms management played an important role in species management. The best practices from each territory as it relates to public awareness is to be adopted, as each OT wants to improve its outreach.
While the nature organisations have developed strategies to deal with specific issues, none have a comprehensive strategy for invasive species management. This they agree is an imperative and necessary to get governments and the public to play more significant roles in managing the problem.
Most often, governments throw money to fix the problem rather than implement strategies for prevention, the directors noted.
Mendes also stated in his presentation: “It is imperative that management action be taken and also be programmed into recurrent budgets of Governments. This will include more frequent checks of imported goods, tighter controls on the importation of live plant and animals, a well-defined and funded quarantine policy, licensing and tagging of farmed and domesticated animals, sterilization programs and capacity building with in the agencies of customs, immigration, port security, agriculture, environmental health and environment. The successful management of alien invasive species will be dependent on an informed community and collaborative interagency management programmes.”