The small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) is a small mammal that was introduced in Puerto Rico around 1890s. Originally from the Middle east and South Asia, mongooses were introduced in islands of the Caribbean and Pacific sea as a biocontrol measure against rats or snakes. Today, unfortunately mongooses are listed as one of the top 100 worst invasive species because of their impacts on native species. Mongooses have grown in numbers because of a lack of predators and opportunistic feeding habits, in addition they are the main reservoir of rabies and can also carry the bacteria Leptospira.
Effective management strategies are likely location-specific for mongooses in Puerto Rico, however, we don't know much about their population numbers or presence outside of main protected areas. For management strategies involving population control, data on population size and spatial distribution are very valuable. I am aiming to have an initial understanding of the current population of mongooses in El Yunque National Forest and how it associates with habitat features in the landscape.
In the same vein, I became curious about the ability of mongooses to invade a suite of habitats in the island. Even after mongoose population removal from sensitive conservation areas, they would still recolonize. So it got me thinking... I wanted to ask how the landscape itself and the general premise of landscape connectivity can aid in mongoose movement and dispersal. It is established that the amount of optimal habitat available and its structural connectivity is crucial for the success in establishment of invasive mammalian populations. After a lot of brainstorming we designed a study with the objectives of quantifying the genetic variation and population structure of the small Indian mongoose in Puerto Rico, and second, assess the influence of landscape connectivity and features on the population genetic patterns.