Cruz, Felipe, Victor Carrion, Karl J. Campbell, Christian Lavoie, and C. Josh Donlan. 2009. Bio-economics of large-scale eradication of feral goats from Santiago Island, Galapagos. J. Wildlife Management 73(2): 191-200. Feb. 2009.
Invasive mammals are premier drivers of extinction and ecosystem change, particularly on islands. In the 1960s, conservation practitioners started developing techniques to eradicate invasive mammal populations from islands. Larger and more biologically complex islands are being targeted for restoration worldwide. We conducted a feral goat (Capra hircus) eradication campaign on Santiago Island in the Galapagos archipelago, which was an unprecedented advance in the ability to reverse biodiversity impacts by invasive species. We removed > 79,000 goats from Santiago Island (58,465 ha) in < 4.5 years, at an approximate cost of US$6.1 million. An eradication ethic combined with a suite of techniques and technologies made eradication possible. A field-based Geographic Information System facilitated an adaptive management strategy, including adjustment and integration of hunting methods. Specialized ground hunting techniques with dogs removed most of the goat population. Aerial hunting by helicopter and Judas goat techniques were also critical. Mata Hari goats, sterilized female Judas goats induced into a long-term estrus, removed males from the remnant feral population at an elevated rate, which likely decreased the length and cost of the eradication campaign. The last 1,000 goats cost US$2.0 million to remove; we spent an additional US$467,064 on monitoring to confirm eradication. Aerial hunting is cost-effective even in countries where labor is inexpensive. Local sociopolitical environments and best practices emerging from large-scale, fast-paced eradications should drive future strategies. For nonnative ungulate eradications, island size is arguably no longer the limiting factor. Future challenges will involve removing invasive mammals from large inhabited islands while increasing cost-effectiveness of removing low-density populations and confirming eradication. Those challenges will require leveraging technology and applying theory from other disciplines, along with conservation practitioners working alongside sociologists and educators.