They seek consensus to relocate the cats and decree Cerro del Crestón as a protected natural area. Specialists recommend removing them from the place before they destroy the native fauna.
Because cats are an invasive species that puts the wildlife of the Faro Mazatlán Natural Park at risk, control alternatives will be sought that include their relocation after they have been found a suitable place.
During a workshop organized last Wednesday by the park’s board of trustees, in which experts, authorities from the three levels of government, and activists participated, it was concluded that the cat population is causing an ecological imbalance and that they should be looked for measures to control and reduce their population before they destroy the birds, reptiles and small mammals that inhabit the place.
Among the proposed solutions stands out the creation of a collaboration network and an advisory council made up of various social actors and institutions for the comprehensive management of introduced species, develop protocols and carry out procedures before the Ministry of Welfare and Development of the State of Sinaloa so that the Cerro del Crestón, called the Mazatlán Lighthouse Natural Park, is declared a protected natural area.
In the first phase, it is contemplated to reduce the number of feeding points, promote sterilizations, adoptions, and the relocation of cats to the Animal Welfare and Control Center of Mazatlán (CEBICA), with whom it is intended to establish a collaboration agreement for the management of said specimens.
In a complementary way, environmental education campaigns will be implemented to help understand the ecological, economic and public health problem that is generated when species are introduced into natural areas to which they do not belong. It will also seek to discourage the abandonment of pets through social awareness campaigns.
“The purpose is to create a strategy to control invasive fauna that helps to recover native species in a consensual manner,” said researcher Raquel Briseño Dueñas, president of the board of trustees.
Before starting, the cats and raccoons that currently exist on the hill will be counted to determine the steps to follow, he said.
What is the problem?
The population of cats hunts and preys on the wildlife of Cerro del Crestón despite being fed daily by a group of activists. The felines are not part of this natural environment and that is why they are considered invasive fauna.
The raccoon population has also grown and feeds on the kibbles that are given to cats, becoming a problem despite being a wild species characteristic of the region, according to the board.
Where did the cats come from?
Martha Armenta Gámez mentioned that for more than 20 years the fishermen in the area began to feed the abandoned cats that were on the slopes of the hill, on the side of the breakwater. Later, a couple of foreigners began to feed them, sterilize them and give them up for adoption. In the past three years, she and other women volunteers have continued that work, in addition to providing veterinary care.
“When we began to feed and sterilize them in a systematic way, there were approximately 60 cats on the breakwater, today there are no more than 35,” he explained during the workshop.
In shipyards and other establishments in this sector, there are also cats, but in most cases, no one takes responsibility for them, he said. Additionally, pet abandonment has increased since the trail leading to the lighthouse was remodeled and opened to more visitors.
Martha Armenta said that in Mazatlán there are more than 140 places where there are colonies of unsterilized stray cats, with the lighthouse and Cerritos being the areas where the most abandonments are registered.
“The main problem is the abandonment of pregnant cats, they climb the lighthouse looking for protection for their young and it takes about six months for them to trust us to catch them, lower them, sterilize them and give their young for adoption,” explained to the activist that in The last 20 years have been dedicated to environmental education and the rehabilitation of wildlife, among which the pichichín duck stands out.
He considered that the underlying problem is not the lighthouse cats, but the overcrowding that exists throughout the city, a product of people’s irresponsibility, lack of vigilance, and sanctions for those who abandon them.
During the event, personnel from the Municipal Ecology and Environment Directorate assured that the reports of abandonment and requests for sterilizations are being attended to through the Animal Welfare and Control Center, but they are not coping.
Impacts of invasive fauna
Invasive flora or fauna species are those that are outside their natural habitat because they were accidentally or intentionally introduced, such as pets and ornamental plants. When these species have the ability to do harm, they are called alien invaders.
Depending on where they are, some of them can spread diseases, compete for food or prey on native species with environmental, health, and economic repercussions, explained Dr. Ana Isabel González Martínez, who for 14 years was in charge of the invasive species program of the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (Conabio).
For his part, the national coordinator of Invasive Species in Protected Natural Areas, Eduardo Rendón Hernández, said that in all the country’s natural reserves species of flora or fauna from other habitats have been detected, among which are amphibians, birds, fish, pests, weeds, dogs and cats.
He said that the areas near the big cities are the most affected by the presence of cats and dogs that are abandoned and that by survival instinct they return to being wild, that is to say, feral. An example of this is the Sumidero Canyon National Park, Chiapas, where packs of dogs have been detected that feed on voles, rabbits, gophers, badgers, spider monkeys, and various species of birds.
When hunting, feral animals compete for food with wild carnivorous species such as foxes, cacomixtles, and skunks, being able to displace them until they become extinct in the area in which they are found.
Another of the affectations has to do with the probable transmission of diseases from feral to native species or vice versa, said the specialist.
During his speech, the director of the Tropical Islands Project of the Island Ecology and Conservation Group, AC, presented a report on the control and eradication mechanisms of invasive exotic fauna in island elements of the country, where there is evidence that rodents Introduced animals have caused between 40 and 60 percent of bird and reptile extinctions.
Feral species have also been recorded that have had to be captured and in some cases sacrificed as a control measure.
What can be done?
The specialists agreed that preventive measures should be implemented to prevent invasive species from arriving, inform the population about their characteristics and negative impacts and establish measures to eliminate, control or contain them when they are already present.
Specimens of flora and fauna that inhabit the Cerro del Crestón, called the Mazatlán Lighthouse Natural Park. 1-White-tipped onyx butterfly. Photo: Raquel Zapien, 2-Broad-billed Hummingbird. Photo: Roberto González, 3-Guayacán. Photo: Verónica Rico, 4-Northwest Spiny Lizard. Photo: Roberto González, 5-Paciflora. Photo: Verónica Rico, 6-Pumpkin Bug. Photo: Verónica Rico, 7-Sphinx with pink spots. Photo: Roberto González. Images taken from the Naturalista platform .
Currently, a registry of flora and fauna of Cerro del Crestón is being carried out. So far 87 species of flora have been identified, corresponding to the dry forest, the predominant vegetation of Sinaloa and one of the most threatened in Mexico. Two species of invasive grasses were also detected.