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A review on the impacts of feral cats (Felis silvestris catus) in the Canary Islands: implications for the conservation of its endangered fauna

Abstract

Feral cats have been directly responsible for the extinction of numerous species on islands worldwide, including endemic species of mammals, birds and reptiles. The diet of feral cats in the main habitats of the Canary Islands, as generally occurred on oceanic islands, is mainly composed of introduced mammals, and native species of birds, reptiles and insects. The impact of feral cat upon the endangered species was assessed by evaluating their relative abundance in the cats’ diet and by considering their current conservation status. A total of 68 different preys were identified at species level in all studies carried out in the Canary Islands (5 mammals, 16 birds, 15 reptiles and 32 invertebrates). From all the species preyed by feral cats in the Canary Islands, only four of them are considered threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: one endemic bird Saxicola dacotiae and three endemic giant lizards, Gallotia simonyi, Gallotia intermedia, and Gallotia gomerana. Although some efforts on management control have been carried out, it is necessary to enforce these conservation activities on those areas of Tenerife, La Gomera and El Hierro where giant lizards are still present. Furthermore some local areas where endangered bird species are highly predated should be protected. Nevertheless, it is important to take into account the presence of other introduced species such as rats, mice or rabbits in order to avoid problems derived from the hyperpredation process and mesopredator release effect.

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Acknowledgments

We thank all the co-authors who participated with us in the partial contributions carried out on the study of feral cat diet in the Canary Islands, without their basic information this review had not been possible. Manuel González-Acebes, Aurelio Martín, Juan Carlos Illera, Juan Carlos Rando, Rafael Riera and Miguel Ángel Rodríguez-Domínguez provided useful information about feral cat control programmes performed in the Canary Islands. Thanks to Rafael Riera who support data from Gran Canaria Island control programmes financed by the Cabildo Insular de Gran Canaria and the Canary Government. This contribution has been carried out during the project GL2004-04884-C02-01/BOS financed by the Spanish Ministry of Science and the European Union.

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Medina, F.M., Nogales, M. A review on the impacts of feral cats (Felis silvestris catus) in the Canary Islands: implications for the conservation of its endangered fauna. Biodivers Conserv 18, 829–846 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-008-9503-4

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Keywords

  • Canary Islands
  • Endangered species
  • Felis silvestris catus
  • Food habits
  • Island conservation