New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2020) 44(1): 3394

A conservation paradox: endangered and iconic flightless kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus) apparently escape feral cat predation

Research Article
Pauline Palmas 1,2
Hervé Jourdan 1
Léo Debar 1
Edouard Bourguet 1
Frédéric Rigault 1
Elsa Bonnaud 2
Eric Vidal 1, 3
  1. Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d'Ecologie marine et continentale (IMBE), Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, IRD, Avignon Université, Centre IRD de Nouméa, BPA5, 98848 Nouméa cedex, Nouvelle-Calédonie
  2. Ecologie Systématique Evolution, Université Paris-Sud, CNRS, AgroParisTech, Université Paris-Saclay, 91 400 Orsay, France
  3. UMR ENTROPIE (IRD-Université de la Réunion-CNRS), Laboratoire d’Excellence Labex-CORAIL, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, BP A5, 98848 Nouméa Cedex, Nouvelle Calédonie
*  Corresponding author

The kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus) is an iconic endemic flightless bird from New Caledonia, red-listed as endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria. Feral cats are among the most successful and damaging invaders for island biodiversity. They have been directly responsible for the extinction of numerous birds worldwide, especially small- and medium-sized flightless species. Our study evaluates the feral cat threat to the kagu by analysing 772 cat scats from the two main sites housing major remaining populations (eight quarterly sampling sessions conducted per site over 2 years). Surprisingly, we detected no predation evidence against this endangered species (including chicks) although it falls within the cats’ prey size range and exhibits life-history traits typical of island endangered naïve birds. We recommend a multi-species approach to invasive mammal management to mitigate direct and indirect pressures against remaining kagu populations.