Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 317-331

The status of dwarf carnivores on Cozumel Island, Mexico

  • Alfredo D. CuarónAffiliated withDepartamento de Ecología de los Recursos Naturales, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, Morelia, Michoacán Email author 
  • , Miguel Angel Martínez-MoralesAffiliated withDepartamento de Ecología de los Recursos Naturales, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, Morelia, Michoacán
  • , Katherine W. McfaddenAffiliated withCenter for Environmental Research and Conservation, Columbia University
  • , David ValenzuelaAffiliated withCentro de Educación Ambiental e Investigación Sierra de Huautla, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos
  • , Matthew E. GompperAffiliated withCenter for Environmental Research and Conservation, Columbia UniversityDepartment of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, University of Missouri

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Cozumel Island in the Mexican Caribbean is inhabited by four carnivores, of which two, the Cozumel coati Nasua nelsoni and pygmy raccoon Procyon pygmaeus, are endemic species. The taxonomic status of a third carnivore, a dwarf gray fox Urocyon cinereoargenteus, is undetermined, but may deserve subspecific or species-level recognition. The fourth species, the kinkajou (Potos flavus), may be a recent introduction. We review the status of these carnivores, report our field observations and results of line transect and trapping efforts, discuss current threats to these taxa, and make recommendations for their conservation. A population density of 0.43 ± 0.27 coatis/km2, and a total island population size of 150 ± 95 individuals, was estimated from 386 km of line transects in 1994–1995. Intensive trapping efforts (1479 trap-nights) in 2001 at multiple localities were unsuccessful. Pygmy raccoons were observed in the mangrove and coastal wetland areas of the island and in 2001 we captured 11 individuals with the same sampling efforts as for coatis (8.8 raccoons/1000 trap-nights). The gray fox is also apparently very rare on the island. While a few observations of the animals have been made (1984, 1994 and 2001), no animals were seen along transects and none were trapped. The primary threats to the persistence of these taxa include introduced congeners, introduced predators, parasite and disease spill-over from exotic animals, habitat fragmentation, hunting and collection as pets, and hurricanes. We suggest that the Cozumel coati, pygmy raccoon, and the Cozumel population of the gray fox be considered as Critically Endangered according to the IUCN classification system. Current conservation actions focusing on Cozumel carnivores are extremely limited. We recommend eradication of introduced species, maintenance of habitat connectivity, ex situ conservation programs, explicit public policies on land-use and sustainable development, public awareness campaigns, and continuous scientific research and monitoring.

Conservation Cozumel Island endemics Nasua nelsoni Potos flavus Procyon pygmaeus Taxonomic status Urocyon cinereoargenteus Yucatán.