Seychelles is emerging as a world leader when it comes to invasive species eradication. For the first time in history the ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameri), an aggressive invasive alien species, has been eradicated. The Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) eradicated the parakeet from Mahé, the largest island in the archipelago. The import of all parrot species into Seychelles is banned.
The ring-necked parakeet eradication led by SIF is the first successful national eradication of this highly invasive species globally. This bird is considered the most invasive parrot species in the world as they congregate in large flocks and also compete with indigenous species. The ring-necked parakeet was introduced to the Seychelles in the 1980s.
“SIF has completed five invasive bird eradications in the last seven years,” explains Jennifer Appoo, the science and projects coordinator for SIF.
How did ring-necked parakeets become invasive on Mahé
“A small number of ring-necked parakeets were imported into Seychelles as pets,” explains Appoo. “Some of them escaped or were released into the wild by their owners.”
“The ring-necked parakeet was able to thrive on Mahé because it can tolerate a wide range of climates and has a varied diet,” says Appoo. It is also fairly aggressive and competes with other bird for food and nesting locations. In Seychelles, it eats fruit and corn.
Why are ring-necked parakeets a problem?
“Let’s say the ring-necked parakeet did establish a colony on Praslin Island,” says Appoo. “Based on the impact ring-necked parakeets have had elsewhere, it would have competed with the black parrot for nesting cavities.” A single ring-necked parakeet was culled on Praslin Island, home to the endemic Seychelles black parrot (Coracopsis barklyi). It is also the country’s national bird.
“Getting rid of the parakeet found on Praslin, before it could establish itself and cause potentially irreversible damage for black parrots, was pre-emptive,” says Appoo.” Ring-necked parakeets also carry a lethal parrot disease that could affect the endemic parrot. The parakeets are also a problem for farmers as they destroy crops.
Seychelles’ invasive species
“There are countless invasive species in Seychelles from mammals, plants, invertebrates, birds and amphibians,” says Appoo. “SIF has already eradicated the invasive Madagascar fody (Foudia madagascariensis) and red-whiskered bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus) from Aldabra and Assumption Islands.” The Indian myna (Acridotheres tristis) remains a problem on many islands and is being targeted on some islands. That being said, due to the success of invasive alien species eradication programmes, there are now no invasive bird species threatening the World Heritage Sites found in Seychelles.
Indigenous parakeets from the Mascarene Islands and Seychelles
There are 16 parakeet (Psittacula) species that occur across Africa and Asia, including the Indian Ocean Islands of Reunion, Mauritius and Seychelles. The Réunion parakeet (Psittacula eques eques), Mascarene grey parakeet (Psittacula bensoni) and Newton’s parakeet (Psittacula exsul) are all extinct. Seychelles’ only parakeet species, the Seychelles parakeet (Psittacula wardi), became extinct at the beginning of the 20th century. The echo parakeet (Psittacula eques) is still found in Mauritius.
Invasive species have a major impact on endemic wildlife found on islands worldwide. Seychelles has positioned itself as an expert when it comes to eradicating aggressive invasive species like rats, feral cats, mynas and the ring-necked parakeet.
Written by Georgina Lockwood
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