Rhesus macaque eradication to restore the ecological integrity of Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge, Puerto Rico.
A non-native introduced population of rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) was targeted for removal from Desecheo Island (117 ha), Puerto Rico. Macaques were introduced in 1966 and contributed to several plant and animal extirpations. Since their release, three eradication campaigns were unsuccessful at removing the population; a fourth campaign that addressed potential causes for previous failures was declared successful in 2017. Key attributes that led to the success of this campaign included a robust partnership, adequate funding, and skilled field staff with a strong eradication ethic that followed a plan based on eradication theory. Furthermore, the incorporation of modern technology including strategic use of remote camera traps, monitoring of radio-collared Judas animals, night hunting with night vision and thermal rifle scopes, and the use of high-power semi-automatic firearms made eradication feasible due to an increase in the probability of detection and likelihood of removal. Precision shooting and trapping were the primary methods used throughout the campaign. Long-term monitoring using camera traps and observed sign guided a management strategy that adapted over time in response to population density and structure. Lessons learnt include, (1) macaques quickly adjusted their behaviour in response to human presence and removal methods, (2) camera traps and thermal scopes provided high detection likelihood compared to other methods, and (3) the use of Judas animals and night hunting with thermal and night vision rifle-scopes facilitated removals. The removal of macaques from Desecheo Island appears to be the first introduced non-hominid primate eradication from an island.