A case study of sea and shorebird breeding recovery following goat and cat eradication on Klein Curaçao, southern Caribbean


Here, we document major seabird breeding recovery on a satellite island of Curaçao in the southern Caribbean following the removal of goats in 1997, significant reforestation from 2000–2005, and the extermination of cats in 2001. The only seabird to have been confirmed to breed on the island since the 1960s and until recently has been the Least Tern (Sternula antillarum). However, we now confirm nesting for an additional eight sea- and shorebird species on the island for the first time based on field observations in 2021 and 2022. The total number of documented nesting pairs annually has increased from a maximum of 140 pairs (of a single species in 2002), to > 430 pairs (of all species combined) in 2021 and 650 pairs in 2022. The dominant species are the Cayenne Tern (Thalassaeussandviscensis), Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla), Sooty Tern (Onychoprion fuscatus), and Least Tern, in that order. Breeding by the SootyTern and Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anatheus) are new national records for Curaçao. Klein Curaçao is now the island group’s most diverse and active seabird breeding location. Major threats to the nascent recovery of seabird breeding in this Ramsar-designated wetland area are the growing and uncontrolled human recreation, the repeated threat of reintroduction of feral cats, and predation by rats. Recommendations are made on measures needed to address these threats. The case study of Klein Curaçao demonstrates the potential for seabird recovery when deleterious invasive mammals are eradicated from islands.

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