Cats

The UK has sovereignty over 16 Overseas Territories, which hold some of the world's great seabird colonies and collectively support more endemic and globally threatened bird species than the whole of mainland Europe. Invasive alien mammalian predators have spread throughout most of the Territories, primarily since European expansion in the 16th century. Here we review and synthesize the scale of their impacts, historical and current, actions to reduce and reverse these impacts, and priorities for conservation.

Seabirds are notoriously sensitive to introduced mammalian predators and eradication programs have benefitted seabird populations and their habitats on numerous islands throughout the world. However, less evidence is available from the tropics as to the benefits of rat eradication. Here, we report the seabird recovery and vegetation dynamics on a small coralline island of the tropical western Indian Ocean, eight years after Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) eradication.

The Pacific is biologically unique, as its isolated islands provide ideal conditions for the evolution of new species. Thus, Pacific islands have high numbers of "endemic"species - species that are restricted to only one or a few islands and found nowhere else in the world.

More than US$21 billion is spent annually on biodiversity conservation. Despite their importance for preventing or slowing extinctions and preserving biodiversity, conservation interventions are rarely assessed systematically for their global impact. Islands house a disproportionately higher amount of biodiversity compared with mainlands, much of which is highly threatened with extinction. Indeed, island species make up nearly two-thirds of recent extinctions. Islands therefore are critical targets of conservation.

House mice (Mus musculus) were introduced to South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Marion Island, the larger of the two Prince Edward Islands, by sealers in the early 19th century. Over the last two centuries they have greatly reduced the abundance of native invertebrates. Domestic cats (Felis catus) taken to the island in 1948 to control mice at the South African weather station soon turned feral, killing large numbers of breeding seabirds. An eradication programme finally removed cats from the island by 1991, in what is still the largest island area cleared of cats at 290 km2.