Since the 17th century, invasive alien species have contributed to nearly 40% of all animal extinctions. Invasive alien species are animals, plants, pathogens, and other organisms that are non-indigenous to an ecosystem. They cause environmental and economic harm or have an adverse effect on human health. Invasive alien species have been known to negatively impact biodiversity, by disrupting ecosystem functions, eliminating native species, or preying on native species that cause great decline or near extinction.
One of the most notorious invasive alien species is the small Indian mongoose. The small Indian mongoose (Urva auropunctatus) was first introduced to several oceanic islands to control snake and rat populations. They became too effective and began preying on local birds, other vertebrates, and reptiles. This species is a known carrier of diseases like leptospirosis and rabies. Learn more about other invasive species like the small Indian mongoose in our policy brief, ‘Invasive species Threaten Livelihoods and Valuable Biodiversity in the Caribbean.’
The Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata L.) is critically endangered due to the small Indian mongoose preying on turtle hatchlings. Turtles are at their most vulnerable while at their nesting grounds on land. Another species that has become near extinct but is still critically endangered is the Jamaica petre, (Pterodroma caribbaea Carte.), the introduction of mongooses and rats in the 19th century drastically declined this species. Additionally, the Hispaniola racer (Hypsirhynchus melanichnus) is also critically endangered and possibly extinct because of this IAS interference.
The Caribbean islands are a global hotspot for biodiversity. There has been a total of 61% global vertebrate extinctions since the 1500s. Protecting biodiversity is key to animal, plant, and human health. Presently, many Caribbean countries have begun breeding initiatives to protect their native species and to begin programmes that would encourage an increase of native species before they are lost to invasive species.
Read more from our sources below!
Policy Brief – Invasive species Threaten Livelihoods and Valuable Biodiversity in the Caribbean
Mongabay – Turtle DNA database traces illegal shell trade to poaching hotspots
Convention on Biological Diversity – What are Invasive Alien Species?
Nature.com – The global contribution of invasive vertebrate eradication as a key island restoration tool