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Original Article

Biologies of betrayal: Judas goats and


sacrificial mice on the margins of Mexico
Emily Mannix Wanderer
History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
E-mail: wanderer@mit.edu
This article has been corrected since Advance Online Publication and corrigendum is also printed in this issue.

Abstract

Invasive species are the subject of much debate and attention. Social scientific analyses of alien species have focused on rhetoric about invaders, arguing that the discourse about
invasive species reflects how people think about nature, culture and agency. In this article, I argue for
a focus not only on discourse, but also on what happens in practice in the encounter between field
scientists and invasive animals. Through ethnographic fieldwork on Guadalupe Island in Mexico,
I analyze both the place of islands in the Mexican nation and invasive species eradication programs
as examples of care of the pest, that is, projects in which scientists carefully tend to invasive
organisms in order to produce knowledge about them. This knowledge is then used against the
animals to exterminate them in a biology of betrayal, and occasionally, animals are enlisted into
these projects to aid scientists in eradicating fellow members of their species. This article shows how
changing perceptions of the value of island ecologies affected the use of the land and the fates of
the animals on Guadalupe Island as the island was variously configured as laboratory, field site and
slaughterhouse.
BioSocieties (2015) 10, 123. doi:10.1057/biosoc.2014.13; published online 12 May 2014
Keywords: Mexico; science studies; ecology; invasive species; multispecies; islands

Animal Betrayals
On Guadalupe Island, Mexico in 2007, a cohort of goats led hunters to their fellow herd
members, revealing their hiding places in the islands inaccessible cliffs. By identifying the
location of their conspecifics, these goats made it possible for hunters to eradicate the entire
goat population of Guadalupe. Conservationists from Grupo de Ecologa y Conservacin de
Islas (GECI), a Mexican non-governmental organization, dubbed these turncoat goats Judas
goats, a name that cast their actions as a betrayal of their fellows. More than just a biblical
allusion, the name also borrows from slaughterhouse terminology; the original Judas goats
were goats deployed in stockyards to bring sheep from their pens to be slaughtered. After a
period of apprenticeship as kids, Judas goats would lead generations of sheep to slaughter
(Umland, 1941). On Guadalupe the hunters sterilized and tagged Judas goats with radio
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transmitters, making them key instruments in GECIs project to rid the island of invasive
species. Goats had been one of the most destructive of the invasives on the island and their
removal was a crucial step in the effort to return the island to its state before the arrival of
humans. While the goats were the most visible of the alien species on the island, they were not
the only ones. As I learned when I traveled to Guadalupe myself in 2011, the fields also hid a
substantial population of field mice who proliferated after arriving as shipboard stowaways
and who would become the target of subsequent eradication projects. In what follows, I will
tell the tale of how mice and goats are managed, exterminated and woven into stories about
the Mexican nation.
Writing on invasive species has primarily addressed the question of discourse and
definitions, looking at how scientists and others identify organisms as native or invasive. The
way groups categorize, define and make distinctions about biological entities can reflect how
they think about nature and culture, as well as non-human and human agency (Helmreich,
2005). These categorizations are shaped by political, economic and social concerns (Bulmer,
1967; Takacs, 1996; Mansfield, 2003; Lowe, 2006). More specifically, social scientists have
argued that the rhetoric about invasive species is shaped by fears about the movement of capital,
commodities and people, and related fears of outsiders taking over a country or contaminating a
previously pure environment (Tomes, 1997; Comaroff and Comaroff, 2001). Definitions of
exotic, invasive and native species in Mexico focus on potential harms to biodiversity, the
economy and public health. For example, the Mexican National Strategy for Invasive Species,
an important planning document developed by the federal governments National Commission
for the Study and Use of Biodiversity (Comisin Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la
Biodiversidad or CONABIO) in collaboration with members of the military and non-governmental organizations including GECI, gives definitions of key terms. The strategy defines native
species as those naturally found in a region as a result of a long process of adaptation to the
existing environmental conditions, while alien species, on the other hand, are species occurring
outside of their past or present natural range. Invasive species are a special subset of alien species
that are distinguished both for their capability to establish long-term populations in an area and
the threat that they pose to the health of native life forms and the Mexican economy (Comit
Asesor Nacional sobre Especies Invasoras, 2010, p. 3).
In general, the rhetoric in Mexico about invasives and the threats they pose is dramatic. The
National Institute of Ecology (Instituto Nacional de Ecologa) referred to them as one of the
four horsemen of the apocalypse (lvarez Romero et al, 2008, p. 5).1 A typical news report
highlighted how invasive animals have damaged the Mexican economy, arguing that the
arrival of exotic fish has caused the social fabric to disintegrate. Delinquency has risen and
now there are serious security problems. All because of an invasive species.2 The invasive
species in question, tilapia, were described as voracious, genetically programmed to eat
everything they can, excessively fertile African animals, that were like a horde of rodents
that does not fear humans they jump and fight to get any food they are thrown (Cruz, 2011).3
1 Cuatro Jinetes del Apocalipsis.
2 Comenz a desintegrarse el tejido social. Subi la delincuencia y hoy hay un problema grave de seguridad.
Todo como consecuencia de una especie invasora.
3 Voraz, est programado genticamente para comer todo lo que pueda este animal africano,
excesivamente frtil . similares a una horda de roedores, no temen al ser humano y saltan y se pelean
para obtener cualquier alimento que se les arroja.
2

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The panicked language used to describe plant and animal invasions reflects nativism in
conservation biology, nationalism, fears about immigration, and anxiety over changing
economic and gender norms. (Tomes, 1997; Brown and Sax, 2004; Subramaniam, 2005).
In what follows, I suggest that social scientific analyses of alien and invasive species
eradication programs would benefit from closer attention to how species meet (Haraway,
2008) in these encounters. By looking at practice in addition to discourse, I argue that we can
discern new kinds of animalhuman and animalanimal connections in the making in invasive
species research. Animals are not mere symbols in invasive species politics, but are actors
entangled with humans (cf. Haraway, 2008; Kirksey and Helmreich, 2010). In laboratorybased research, model organisms such as mice and Drosophila have become key elements of
the material culture of biology, described by Kohler (1994) as technological artifacts that are
constructed and embedded in complex material and social systems of production (pp. 56).
Animals transform as they enter the laboratory; they are domesticated, standardized and
commoditized. Scientists selectively breed animals so that their characteristics are known
and regularized, and intervene in their lives until they resemble instruments and part of
the lab apparatus. As model organisms, they are turned into scientific instruments and
research tools, while at the same time laboratory ecologies are constructed around the
particularities of their biology (Kohler, 1994; Haraway, 1997; Rader, 2004; White, 2006;
Friese and Clark, 2012). Kohler (1994) argues that laboratory organisms should be
treated as constructed artifacts, no less than physical instruments, and as tools for
investigation rather than as objects to be investigated (p. 127). As tools, model organisms
in experimental systems stand in for human biology, or shed light on more generalized
biological processes. Lynch (1988) writes of sacrificing animals in the laboratory, a
process by which scientists transform animals from naturalistic animals of everyday
experience into analytic objects, or legible data (p. 266). As data, these sacrificed
animals are generalizable exemplars of biological processes rather than individuals.
Models more generally are embodiments of action and practice that constitute the
kinds of scientific questions that can be asked and how those questions can be answered
(Friese, 2009).
On Guadalupe, biologists dealt with unwanted invaders, problem animals. Working
alongside these scientists as a participant-observer, I saw them engaging in what I call the
care of the pest, carefully tending to exotic invaders in order to produce knowledge about
their characteristics and social behavior, knowledge that would then be turned against these
animals in what I will term a biology of betrayal. There were multiple betrayals at work on
Guadalupe, and these betrayals took different forms. A betrayal can be a conscious decision,
but in addition to intentional violations of trust, betrayals can be accidental exposures. In the
case of goat eradications, while goats did not intentionally assist scientists with the destruction
of their fellow herd members, they did betray their existence and make their extermination
possible. While the goats betrayed one another, they were also betrayed by the scientists who
worked with and cared for them until the time came to destroy the herd. These betrayals are
the counterpart or consequence of the scientists larger loyalties. On Guadalupe, care and
loyalty to the island as a whole entailed betraying the goats and mice that were damaging the
islands ecosystem. Scientists first cared for and learned about the goats and mice, developing
individualized relationships with the animals that were different from those developed in
laboratories, where scientists are trained to see the animals they use as standardized tools
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(Birke et al, 2007). On Guadalupe, people destroyed in order to preserve, betraying the
invasive species on the island in the service of what Leopold (1999) termed the health of
the land, that is, the ecosystems ability to sustain itself. Protecting the health of the land
meant taking into account ecological relationships. While the goats had been of practical
use for people on the island as a food source, attention to the total processes of an
ecosystem meant that scientists had to eliminate certain organisms for the greater health of
the island.
Goats and mice on Guadalupe, their histories, the changes they brought to the landscape
and their transforming relationships with humans are useful subjects for thinking about what
Kosek (2006) calls the consequential materiality of nature, the agency of nonhuman actors,
and differences in interspecies relationships over time (p. 23). Kirksey and Helmreich chart
the emergence of anthropological work in which nonhuman life of all sorts appears
alongside humans in the realm of bios, with legibly biographical and political lives.
These works examine the host of organisms whose lives and deaths are linked to human
social worlds (Kirksey and Helmreich, 2010, p. 545). A close look at the practice of
invasive species eradications and the care of the pest highlights how lives of nonhuman
animals shift between bios and zoe, as animals are at one minute individuals with names
and personalities toward which scientists feel responsibility and at the next are pests to be
eradicated (Agamben, 1998).
In this article I draw on ethnographic fieldwork to analyze how animals on Guadalupe were
incorporated into scientific practice. I look at the place of islands in the Mexican nation and
changing attitudes about the value of island ecosystems in Mexico through a history of goats
on Guadalupe. As perceptions about the importance of native life forms changed, people
working on the island reconfigured the space from slaughterhouse to field site to laboratory,
changes that had important consequences for humananimal interactions. The article then
turns to the multispecies relationships produced in current research on mice on the island.
Telling the story of eradication in practice in Guadalupe permits me to ask about the
particular organisms at issue: goats and mice. Moreover, I am able to track how these
creatures are variously enlisted into consumption, laboratory and field practices, adding here
to literature in the history of science and science studies that examines the role and status of
animals in laboratory-based scientific research by comparing the ways in which the fates and
lives of animals on Guadalupe transformed as the island and people engaged with them as
food sources, instruments of knowledge production and wild animals.

Slaughterhouse, Field Site, Laboratory


In November of 2011, I traveled with five employees of GECI to Guadalupe, a volcanic island
241 km off the coast of Baja California Norte and the westernmost point of the Mexican
nation. We went as part of GECIs continuing research on island flora and fauna, both native
and invasive, and to assist with their efforts to reconstruct a past natural order. GECI is an
NGO based out of Ensenada on the Baja California peninsula. Although relatively small,
GECI sends field biologists to islands throughout Mexico, coordinating projects to eradicate
invasive species, monitor ecosystems and foster native species. Guadalupe is GECIs most
longstanding project, one of many years duration. Their research focuses on both the removal
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of the invasive populations of goats, mice and cats and on the restoration of native plant and
bird life. While historic efforts to revegetate ecosystems often focused primarily on restoring
the productivity of the land, even if that meant planting new exotic species, GECIs efforts to
restore the land were much more minimalist (Hall, 2001). Rather than attempting to garden
wild areas or improve on nature through the addition of new plants, the goal was to allow the
ecosystem to regenerate itself. Sometimes the removal of invasive herbivores leads to
ecological kickback, the rapid growth of invasive vegetation, but prior to the eradication,
GECI had constructed fenced areas that goats could not enter, and had established that simply
removing the goats would allow native vegetation to grow again.
Guadalupe is remote, and human access is limited. In addition to the scientists from GECI
and CONABIO, the only people permitted to visit are the approximately 100 members of the
fishing cooperative and a small deployment of the Mexican Navy stationed on the island. These
groups are confined to a small settlement and a garrison at one end of the 37 by 8.5 km island.
One scientist at GECI told me that the island is like a gigantic laboratory, a claim reinforced
by the islands isolation and limited access. This, in addition to the relatively simple ecosystem,
gives scientists a degree of control over this field site that is impossible on the mainland.
Scientists are free to experiment with the ecosystem and act as if the island is, as Kohler (2002)
described the ideal laboratory, a world apart from the world (p. 7). Animals are a normal
feature of many biology laboratories, where they are carefully tended up to the moment of their
sacrifice so that they may produce information about biology more broadly. In field experiments
on Guadalupe, where animals remade the landscape and where animals betrayed one another,
different kinds of cross-species encounters developed. While the island is represented as a
laboratory, the animals on Guadalupe diverge from the furry test tubes that experimental
organisms in the laboratory resemble (Birke et al, 2007, p. 12). On Guadalupe, scientific
practice with animals was complicated as animals were variously lab instruments, wild
creatures, collaborators and meat, as people transformed the island between slaughterhouse,
field site and laboratory. The lives and fates of the animals varied according to whether the
island was an experimental place, an ecosystem to be protected or a source of food.
Scientists from GECI engaged with the island as both a field site and laboratory. Crossing
the terrain between lab and field, they moved from intervening and experimenting with the
ecosystem and producing data and results generalizable to the world at large, to describing
and mapping Guadalupe as a unique ecosystem. Techniques of intervention and goals of
working in a field site diverge from laboratory work. Field sites are located in areas where the
ecosystem presents characteristics of interest to the scientist, in this case a high concentration
of imperiled endemic species. While the laboratory is an epistemically advantageous space
because it allows scientists to isolate the phenomena of interest from the rest of the world
(Knorr Cetina, 1992), the field site enables scientists to study events or objects of interest in the
messy and unruly context in which they are usually found. As a result, field practices are
designed to minimize disruption and to observe what is already present. In this context, the
animals of Guadalupe are less research tools than subjects of research themselves. While
animals in the agricultural system and in the laboratory are subject to intensive interventions
in breeding, mobility, habitat and diet, in the field animals are subject to fewer interventions
and controls. Rather than easily manipulable, accessible and standardized, they are interesting
for their autonomy and their ability to act independently of human control. In the field,
animals are less predictable and more individualized than in the laboratory.
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While scientists configured Guadalupe as lab and field, the island figured historically and in
present day Ensenada as a feedlot and proto-slaughterhouse, where meat goats descended
from a population left on the island by whalers in the 1800s were free for the taking. The
islands isolation and the wildness of the goats, while limiting the efficiency of food production, also minimized human interaction with the animals and was a way to exile slaughter to
the edges of human experience. Slaughter and animal sacrifice have been historically a space
of public secrecy, organized on the margins of cities to keep the sights, sounds and smells away
from the public (Shukin, 2009). While in a field site the objective is to observe a wild animal
engaged unimpeded or interrupted in its activities, a slaughterhouse represents the opposite
extreme of engagement with animals. Animals are deindividualized units of meat that need to
be moved with maximum efficiency and invisibility to their final destination as food. While
animal life in contemporary agriculture is rigidly organized, from the moment of often highly
technologized breeding up to the death of the animal and the conversion of the carcass into
meat, goats on Guadalupe were always feral and meat production was never highly organized
or particularly efficient.

Islands and the Nation


The importance of the islands has not only transformed over time but is also contested in the
present day, as different modes of valuing a place and of relating to animals come into play on
Guadalupe. The official position of the federal government is that the islands are a valuable
national patrimony in terms of the important marine resources they offer and because they
are an irreplaceable natural capital in terms of biodiversity (Aguirre-Muoz et al, 2012,
p. 12).4 They are a strategic resource of great value to the country because they contribute
to biodiversity and economic development (ibid., p. 18).5 This position resonates with
attitudes toward conservation and land protection in Mexico that reach back to the postrevolutionary period, when the government began establishing parks as resources for the
nation. In contrast with the United States, where the establishment of parks was oriented
toward protecting pristine areas, in Mexico early conservation efforts focused on restoring
degraded environments. The first parks in Mexico tended to protect forests and areas that
were easily accessible for public enjoyment, places that had immediately apparent economic,
recreational and biological value (Simonian, 1995; Wakild, 2009; Wakild, 2012). While
Guadalupe differs from the parks that were established in the post-revolutionary period
because it is not publically accessible, GECIs work is similar to early conservation efforts in
that it focuses on repairing a damaged ecosystem.
The federal conservation strategy for Guadalupe clearly lays out the governments
perception of the value of the island, interpreting it as a storehouse of biodiversity and
biodiversity as a commodity or resource to be used, reading nature as capital incarnate that
must be secured against being destroyed or wasted, in this case by non-valuable species
(Shukin, 2009, p. 80). However, this is only one perspective on the value of the ecosystem. The
people on the island, particularly the GECI personnel, held alternate values and ways of
4 Un valioso patrimonio nacional un irremplazable capital natural en trminos de biodiversidad.
5 Un recurso estratgico de gran valor para el pas.
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Figure 1: Isla Guadalupe.


Source: Author photograph.

relating with animals and the environment. As one scientist at GECI told me, if you are
empathetic with the conditions of Mexico, it is very important that nature provides services and
goods to the community ... [conservation] is not only about nature by itself, but also about
nature being used. However, he went on to clarify that it was essential that nature was used in
a way that distributed income more equitably in Mexico. For GECI, this meant supporting the
islands fishing cooperative, which produced income for local residents, rather than national or
international corporations. The idea of making economic use of the islands biodiversity was not
part of their work. They rejected efforts to turn the island into an ecotourist destination or to
make the islands biodiversity available for the neoliberal management and industrial development schemes described by Hayden (2003) in her analysis of bioprospecting in Mexico, on the
grounds that these projects tended to concentrate wealth in the hands of a limited number of
people. In the course of caring for the health of the island, scientists from GECI formed
multispecies relationships that entangled them with invasive and native species in ways not
called for or predicted by national strategies or the logics of capital (Figure 1).
I also wish to argue here that understanding the Mexican setting of this research matters for
how land and animals are apprehended, examined and, in the end, eradicated. While
Guadalupe is remote from the mainland and on the geographic periphery of Mexico, islands
are central to the identity of the nation. Take, counterintuitively, Mexico City. Although the
megalopolis is landlocked in the geographic center of the nation, it was founded on an island.
The Mexican coat of arms shows an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a nopal cactus
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growing from a cluster of rocks. The image represents the mythic founding of Tenochtitln,
the center of the Aztec empire, on an island in Lake Texcoco. As the story goes, after years of
wandering the Aztecs encountered the eagle, which they interpreted as a divine command to
build their city on that spot. Tenochtitln eventually became Mexico City, and the choice of
this moment as a national symbol puts Aztec identity at the heart of national identity, eliding
the presence of Mexicos many other indigenous groups.
The symbol is part of a nationalist discourse asserting the centralized identity of the
nation, establishing Mexico City as not only the spatial center of the nation, but also the
rightful spiritual and governmental center of the nation (Alonso, 2004; Chorba, 2007).
However, the symbol is multivalent, representing not only Aztec identity and the centrality
of Mexico City, but also depicting islands as vital to national identity. Alfonso Aguirre, the
director of GECI, points out that this symbol depicts the founding of the Mexican nation as
taking place on an island, and argues that the symbol is an example of how islands form
an essential part of Mexican historic identity (Aguirre-Muoz et al, 2011, p. 387). The
islet on which the eagle was perched became Mexico City, the geographical and political
centre of the current country (ibid., p. 387). He positions islands as a key element in
Mexican identity. Islands have often been imagined as points of origins or spaces in which
the past can be preserved or recovered (Gillis, 2009). Guadalupe is seen as a link to both the
ecological and social past. For ecologists, the island holds the promise of recovering a lost
ecosystem, while the fishing cooperative is the ocean-going equivalent of the ejido land
grants that provided communal land to peasants. These grants were a key part of
the Mexican revolution and a link to social reforms that have mostly been reversed during
the neoliberal era. Guadalupe is a contemporary example of the ways in which islands can
be both models and exceptions of legal and social order, through the continued existence of
an institution that is idealized but has primarily been relegated to the past on the mainland
(Benton, 2010) (Figure 2).
In Mexico the majority of the islands are federal property and seen as patrimony of the
nation. National patrimony and inalienable, collective possessions have been central to the
legitimization of the nation in Mexico (Ferry, 2005). While the islands have long been
conceived of as having value for the nation, what constitutes the value or wealth of the islands
has transformed over the years, as have conceptions of what constitutes a risk or a threat. In a
different context, Lentzos (2006) has proposed that we might denaturalize biorisks by locating
them within the problem spaces, political rationalities, and thought communities that bring
them into reality as problems to attend to (p. 463). Historically, Guadalupes value was
perceived primarily in terms of its usefulness in turning animals into products, whether as a
site from which to hunt marine mammals, fish or raise goats. The health of the ecosystem as a
whole was of little importance. As a result, goats were seen as a benefit to the island and the
people in the surrounding area and were not yet thought of as a threat requiring a response.
GECIs project to eliminate invasive species represents a transformation in the cultural
selection of what threats should be the focus of attention, or indeed, what threats are even
visible as risks. As constructivist theorists of risk have highlighted, the choices that we make of
risks to focus on reflect culturally specific ideas and ways of seeing the world (Douglas and
Wildavsky, 1982; Douglas, 1992; Luhmann, 1993; Lupton, 1999). Changes in science, local
needs and the growing emphasis on the health of the land and the value of biodiversity made
the risks of alien species visible.
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Figure 2: Mexican coat of arms.


Source: Mexican coat of arms vectorized by Alex Covarrubias. Accessed Wikipedia.org, en.wikipedia.org/
wiki/File:Coat_of_arms_of_Mexico.svg.

Judas Goats
The first recorded sighting of Guadalupe was by Sebastin Vizcano in 1602 on a voyage
sponsored by the viceroy of New Spain to study and map the California peninsula and its
surroundings (Jordn, 1987; Comisin Nacional de reas Protegidas, 2009). Since Vizcanos
first sighting of the island, visitors have portrayed it as a sterile, inhospitable wasteland.
Sealers arrived on the island toward the end of the eighteenth century, leaving in the early
1830s after they had slaughtered nearly all the fur seals (Huey, 1925). In 1837, the French
admiral Abel du Petit-Thuoars described the island as little more than a strategic stopping
point for galleons traveling to Acapulco from the Philippines (Comisin Nacional de reas
Protegidas, 2009). Whalers from Russia, Britain, the United States and New Zealand in the
1800s sought to make it a more fruitful refreshment station by importing a population of
goats which voraciously consumed the islands vegetation. As the goats on the island
flourished, Guadalupe became both a source of meat and a base of operations for seafaring
hunters of cetaceans (Huey, 1925). The increasing goat population was destructive to the
native vegetation, radically changing the islands ecosystem (cf. Melville, 1994 on the
consequences of the introduction of grazing animals to Mexican ecosystems).
In 1919, British naturalist Frederic W. Jones was mesmerized by the unloading of several
hundred wild goats onto the municipal pier at San Diego. Hoisted by their horns from the
deck of the Gryme, each bunch of cud-chewers presented a sorry spectacle as they dangled in
midair, with no apparent destination or clue on which to base hope for a much needed relief
and their bulging glassy eyes seemed about ready to burst from their sockets (Jones, 1919,
p. 2). Intrigued by the dramatic arrival of the goats, Jones tracked them to their origin point on
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Isla Guadalupe. Following the precedent of Adam and Eve after many years, Billie and
Nannie Goat are said to have settled on Guadalupe Island and their descendants of Billies and
Nannies, through many generations, have in all probability, numbered into the millions by
this time (ibid., p. 9). By this time, shepherds were making systematic use of the goats,
trapping them in corrals when they came to drink from the islands spring and shipping them
to San Diego, where they would be sent on to the slaughterhouses and meatpacking
companies of Los Angeles. At this moment, Guadalupe and its sparse vegetation were being
made productive resources as a feedlot for wild goats.
Jones found the masses of goats to be for the most part indistinguishable, with
the exception of one noteworthy goat named Monte Cristo, who had once been corralled
by the shepherds but leapt from a San Diego bound boat and swam back to Guadalupe,
where he devoted his career to the furtherance of the highest interests of his fellow goats
(ibid., p. 24). A sociable animal, he thwarted the efforts of the herding gangs, marshaling the
other goats, watching for the appearance of boats and keeping goats away from the spring
where they might be trapped, until he was finally captured himself. Jones admiringly wrote
that even in captivity he remained obdurate and still possessed his indomitable will
(ibid., p. 24). Jones asserted that in his photograph Monte Cristo appears quite resigned,
although, were his inner consciousness exposed and expression given to his thoughts there
might be revealed, the words made immortal by our old friend, Patrick Henry: Give me
liberty or give me death (ibid., p. 24).
Monte Cristos behavior, as fanciful as Jones narrative of it was, is indicative of
characteristics of goat sociality and agency that became important for GECI. While Monte
Cristo was a hero for Jones, rescuing his fellow goats, by 2004 GECI would seek to use the
very kind of goat sociality that Monte Cristo demonstrated against the goats themselves. In
June of that year, GECI began an eradication project, an effort to eliminate every goat from
Guadalupe so that native life forms, particularly plants and forests, would regenerate.
Mammals are the most frequent targets of eradication efforts internationally and are often
thought to be the primary causes of extinction and ecosystem changes on islands (Cruz et al,
2009). For island conservationists, the goats were no longer heroes, nor were they useful
sources of food. Instead, they were invasive species in need of eradication. As the island began
to be seen as an important as a repository of biodiversity and a site of remarkable natural
beauty, the economic and food value of the goats lessened in significance. Recuperating the
native plant and bird populations of Guadalupe for their esthetic, ecological and genetic value
became more important than making use of the island as grazing land for goats. Shifting
priorities in Mexico changed the way that people framed and understood the landscape and
determined the fate of the goats.
The goats left on Guadalupe had indeed been transformative and significant agents of
ecological change. Gabriel,6 the current director of GECIs project on Guadalupe, told me that
when they first started their work:
The island was full of goats, ... goats that were here because European boats would
bring the goats to have a food supply. But the whalers stopped coming back to the island
because they exterminated the population of fur seals, but the goats stayed. There
6 All interviewees are identified by pseudonyms in this article.
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started to be more goats all the time, and more goats, and more goats, and for some
people they were convenient.
(Interview with the author, 2011)
Left by hunters of marine mammals to their own devices, the goat population grew and the
goats consumed much of the islands vegetation, reducing the size of the forest of cypress,
cedar and pine trees unique to the island. One scientist highlighted the dramatic nature of this
change, noting that It was quite a collapse. It was close to extinction, with only 85 ha left
out of an original forest of 8000 ha (Interview with the author, 2011). Along with the goats,
whalers had accidentally deposited populations of cats and mice, which decimated native bird
populations and became another plague that was impossible to destroy (Jordn, 1987). The
cats ate all the birds, and what the goats and cats didnt destroy, the mice did (ibid.). These
invasive species did damage to what biologists now see as a landscape populated by rare
genetic treasures (Oberbauer, 2005).
As we approached the island after an 18-hour journey from Ensenada in one of the Mexican
Navys ocean patrol vessels, I scanned the steep cliffs for signs of life, for traces left by goats or
even just vegetation, but the rocky coasts were stark and uninhabited. I looked for the
biological treasures and flourishing ecosystem that I expected, trying to match up the pictures
of Guadalupe crowded with wildlife that I had seen in reports on the island with the gray cliffs
ahead of me. I knew that the teeming herds that Jones had seen were gone, and ultimately, my
only encounter with goats came a few days after we arrived. Exploring the island, we found a
deep cavern with a cache of goat bones, including a headless carcass. The dry air had
mummified it, leaving leathery skin stretched tight over its ribs. Although the goats had been
eradicated, their traces remained on the island: this carcass, and the grassy fields left after they
devoured the trees.
The few people who visit Guadalupe remember when goats were plentiful. After we had
been on the island for 2 weeks, a pilot arrived in a small Cesna painted with an insignia of a
goat with two long, curved horns. Adriana, the former director of the Guadalupe project and a
doctoral student in ecology, Gabriel and I met him at the landing strip, a long dirt patch with a
dotted white line painted down the middle, to pick up supplies. While we helped him unload
the plane, the pilot commented to Adriana that whenever he comes to Guadalupe people want
to know if he will bring them back a goat to Ensenada for a barbecue. Adriana laughed, but
later she sighed over his comment. This was one of the challenges for the goat eradication
project. People had gotten used to making use of the goats on the island and to bringing them
back for parties on the mainland. She said Guadalupe was legendary you could go there, get
a goat, free! And people did not want to give that up. Her comment reflects a moment of
shifting priorities for people who managed the island, as its value as a proto-slaughterhouse
began to be overshadowed by its ecological value.
People in Ensenada resisted this change and the idea of eliminating goats was not
immediately popular. Over centuries, goats had become part of the landscape of Guadalupe
and the social life of nearby residents. While GECI looked back to pre-whaler times, doing
archeology of the island to establish the original or pre-invasion conditions, in the historical
memory of the people on the island and in Ensenada, goats and Guadalupe were intertwined
and meant to be together. There was opposition on all sides to the eradication, Adriana
recalled (Interview with the author, 2011). Adriana clarified that people did not frame their
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protest in terms of animal rights, but rather as a waste of a valuable resource: There were still
a lot of people that came to take goat meat . It makes more sense to buy a goat in Ensenada,
but people didnt see that because they say, okay, on the island they are free, and its nothing
more than a question of going and grabbing one, no?
People were not concerned that the goats would be killed, but rather that a valuable
renewable resource would be wasted. Adriana explained:
There were always animals on the island. When people took goats, they left females or
young behind because yes, they wanted to use them, but also to leave some to sustain the
population on the island. They werent going to finish off the population; they thought it
was important to maintain it. And there are some people who still believe that the goats
are an important genetic resource because the animals are very resilient and they have
adapted to the environment. They think the goats are like a new breed, and they said
you have to protect it, care for it, how can you eradicate it?
(Interview with the author, 2011)
On the island as slaughterhouse, the goats are generally not individualized (with the
exception of the rare character like Monte Cristo) beyond the most general characteristics
of sex, age and breed. A 1998 report on the problems of food production in Mexico and
the importance of conserving domestic animal diversity in Mexico called for the preservation of the 20 autochthonous species of domestic animals identified by the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Sierra, 1998). The feral goats of Isla
Guadalupe were identified as one of Mexicos two native breeds of goats. This identification of the goats as a native breed initially posed a problem for eradication projects. A preeradication report on the state of the islands vegetation noted that some of the federal
agencies with authority over the island were resistant to the eradication project because
they considered the goats a positive addition to the island, and a valuable resource with
unique genetic characteristics (a breed of goats specifically adapted for difficult conditions), that could be exported and used for human populations that needed alternative
sources of food.7 The report went on to dismiss this argument as illogical, since the
value of the goat breed could not compare with the value of the native and endemic plants
(Len de la Luz et al, 2005).
Despite the claims like these, Adriana argued that it was obvious that the goats needed to be
eliminated. You saw the island, and you realized, even if you didnt know the island before
and werent a specialist, you saw old trees falling, you saw the island totally bare where there
used to be grass, the damage had an emotional impact. Anyone who came to the island could
see that something is happening. And that you have to rescue whats left (Interview with the
author, 2011). Adrianas commentary about the emotional impact and the need to rescue the
island is a characteristic example of the way that scientists on Guadalupe simultaneously were
7 Algunas de estas dependencias incluso han considerado a las cabras como una consecuencia positiva al
verlas como un recurso valioso con germoplasma nico (la especificidad de una raza de cabras adaptada a
condiciones difciles), que puede ser exportado y utilizado por las poblaciones humanas que necesitan
alternativas de alimentacin. Sin embargo, este argumento no es realmente lgico. El valor de este nuevo
linaje (germoplasma) de cabras no es comparable con la naturaleza nica de las plantas nativas y
endmicas de Isla Guadalupe.
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engaged in observing and caring for the island as well as exterminating. The act of eliminating
the goats was part of her work of caring for the island as a whole, of thinking ecologically.
GECI planned to eradicate the goats from the island first by replicating shepherds earlier
method of corralling the goats at the spring. However, while corralling the goats was an
efficient way to gather a large group for slaughter, it is ineffective as an eradication method
since not all goats will come to the corrals of their own volition. In addition, the characteristics
of goats that made them appealing to sailors as food sources and that made them such
successful invaders also made them difficult to eradicate. They have a low metabolism, they
thrive on a wide variety of plants, have efficient digestion, low water requirements and a high
reproductive rate. In order to effectively eradicate them, GECI needed to learn about and
make use of goat tendencies and goat behavior.
On an early reconnaissance trip, Adriana followed Jos Antonio, a professional hunter who
has been working for GECI for many years, as he tracked goats on Guadalupe. Back then
there were still goats, many goats, she said. So he placed traps, and I went with him and
watched how he placed them. I started to get interested in the knowledge that you have to have
of the animal that you are eventually going to eradicate. To know how to control them
(Interview with the author, 2011). Learning about the goats was key to developing effective
eradication strategies that made use of goat behavior in order to eliminate them. In order to
kill, scientists had to have knowledge of the goats, to know how they lived, where they went
and what their behaviors were. They had to care for the pests that they were working to
eliminate. Ultimately, they found that they could not track the goats well enough to hunt them
all, since goats know things that humans do not. They can sense each other and locate each
other more efficiently than humans ever could. Consequently, in order to track down all the
goats on Guadalupe scientists had to recruit goats themselves into the eradication plan,
turning them into biological instruments that would betray their fellow herd members as
Judas goats. The Judas goat allows scientists to make use of goats perceptive abilities and
their ability to sense and respond to each other. Scientists drew on data from studies of both
domestic and feral goats that showed goats seek each others company to turn goats into
betrayers (Keegan et al, 1994, p. 58).
As GECI developed their plans for eradication, they saw characteristics of goats beyond
their efficiency at converting forage into meat. Goats were no longer meat on hooves, but wild
animals in the field over which humans lacked control. As GECI focused on eliminating every
goat, the goats appeared less predictable and more individualized. Radio tags were a way to
convert these wild animals into instruments, and the field into a laboratory; for this reason,
scientists and conservationists have debated use of radio tags because of their capacity to alter
human interactions with wilderness (Benson, 2010). On Guadalupe, however, scientists
lauded this transformation.
The Judas goat technique used by GECI was first developed in the 1980s by conservationists on Hawaii, where small remnant bands of feral goats were stymieing efforts to
eradicate the population. Ecologists observed that the feral goats that evaded eradication
efforts maintained social groups and fixed home ranges and that solitary goats have a strong
drive to locate other goats, a social behavior resistant to change (Shackleton and Shank,
1984; Taylor and Katahira, 1988). Taylor and Katahira adapted this gregarious behavior as
a tool to eliminate the remaining population, releasing radio-collared goats into the
backcountry where hunters would track them as they sought out other goats. They were
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the first to call the radio-collared goats Judas goats, betrayers of their fellows. Not all
animals are suitable for these kinds of tracking and hunting projects. Programs to develop
Judas pigs have failed; lacking the gregarious nature of goats, pigs fail to seek each other out
(McCann and Garcelon, 2008).
Although all goats are social, female goats are generally used as Judas goats because they are
more efficient at locating herds, and they quickly betray the locations of male admirers
(Nelson, 2007, p. 299). Their efficiency is hindered, however, because female Judas goats
often become pregnant or give birth in the field, causing downtime of Judas goat operation
(Campbell and Donlan, 2005). To avoid downtime of their field operatives, Judas goat
projects began using sterilized female goats, while later projects went further, sterilizing
Super Judas nannies, implanted with hormones to draw billies (Krajick, 2005, p. 1413).
These Super Judas goats are also known as Mata Hari goats (Cruz et al, 2009). Like Mata
Hari, an exotic dancer and spy for Germany during World War I, these goats will both seduce
and betray their fellows.
In Judas goat projects, humans and goats work together as experienced trackers follow the
Judas goats to the remaining herds, learning to track quietly while remaining downwind and
out of sight. In these projects, all goats except for the Judas goat are killed, while the Judas
goat is spared so that it will search out other goats and the process of tracking and hunting
is repeated until Judas goats encounter only other Judas goats and the eradication of goats is
achieved (Keegan et al, 1994). Occasionally, even after the feral goats have been eradicated, a
few radio-collared Judas goats are kept around as biological detection devices, monitoring
tools used to confirm the successful eradication or to detect any remaining individuals. If any
new feral goats appear, the Judas goats will seek them out, betraying their presence. To
successfully eradicate a population, scientists not only need to know about goat behavior in
general; they also needed to learn about individual goats and their typical patterns of
movement, and individual Judas goats were identified and praised as especially effective at
locating other goats (Taylor and Katahira, 1988; Keegan et al, 1994). On Guadalupe, GECI
captured and sterilized 40 goats before equipping them with radio collars and sending them
off into the island backcountry to betray their fellows. Working with hunters from New
Zealand in a helicopter loaned by the Mexican Navy, GECI hunted the remaining goats that
were hiding in Guadalupes inaccessible cliffs, canyons and caves. In this case it was critical
to work together with the National Protected Areas Commission, and, maybe even more
important, with the Mexican Navy, one scientist pointed out to me. The island is very far
away from the continent, so you need to navigate for one day or so to get there. Its not easy to
get there with a helicopter, its an oceanic flight. And you needed a helicopter to get rid of the
goats (Interview with the author, 2011). The cliffs on the island are up to a kilometer high,
and the terrain is very rough, making ground hunting impossible.
While scientists sought to learn about goats, they also worked to prevent goats from
becoming educated. The use of the original Judas goats in slaughterhouses exploited the
ability of goats to learn from each other how to execute a task. This aptitude was a
hindrance to eradication efforts, since an educated goat was much more difficult to kill.
Goats quickly learned to be wary of hunters, becoming highly sensitive to their sounds and
tracks. As a result, eradication projects move and kill quickly (Taylor and Katahira, 1988;
Keegan et al, 1994; Campbell and Donlan, 2005). In a report on a feral goat eradication
campaign on Santiago Island in the Galapagos, the authors noted that it is essential to
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minimize chances that a goat may escape during the hunting process, to prevent a nave
population from learning to avoid hunting methods (Cruz et al, 2009). Animals at low
densities are difficult to detect, even with the use of Judas goats as biological detection
system, and goats that have learned to be wary of humans increase costs and the
probability of eradication failure (Parkes, 1990; Russell et al, 2005; Morrison et al, 2007;
Cruz et al, 2009).
In the process of executing a Judas goat project, scientists learn from and about goats,
incorporating them into the project producing them as instruments, while simultaneously
engaging with goats as wild animals whose behavior cannot be controlled, animals whose
capacity to learn and to thwart scientific goals is something to be reckoned with. In this
way, eradications are an unusual contact zone between humans and goats, producing crossspecies interactions and intraspecies betrayals. While eradication projects are often
described as wars between people and animals, goats here are seen as collaborators and
willing betrayers of their fellow goats. The choice of Judas goat as a name is judgmental,
labeling goats doing goat things as betrayers, making a conscious choice to sell out their
fellow goats to save their own skins, a reversal of Monte Cristos heroic rescues. It frames
these encounters in a particular way, one that attributes to goats an evil kind of agency,
fitting with goats traditional symbolic association with the devil and treachery. On
Guadalupe, the Judas goat program ended successfully for the conservationists in 2007,
after they eradicated approximately 10 000 feral goats. With the eradication of the goats,
seedlings of native and endemic species that had been absent for more than 100 years began
to grow again, and plant species that had been thought long extinct began to reappear
(Grupo de Ecologa y Conservacin de Islas, 2011).

Sacrificial Mice
Although the goats were gone, GECIs work on the island was not finished; rather, the
attention of the group had shifted to the next animal. After a week on the island, our days had
taken on a rhythm. We woke at 5:00 to drive across the island to the field site where we spent
our days monitoring the mouse population. As we drove, Adriana interpreted the scenery
around us, pointing out which species were invasive and which were native, while the rising
sun illuminated the landscape. Adriana knew the island well after years of working as the
project manager, and she saw the landscape in terms of its history and its future. The grasses
that covered the hills next to the road were all invasive, mostly European, although some had
come from Australia.
Adriana explained the dramatic transformation she had seen over the years:
Ive seen the island before and after the goats. Im very moved to see that the island has
this capacity of regenerating all these life forms. It was lacking a lot, and there is still a
lot to do, because yes, there still is damage, and it needs help to recuperate, but for me,
its very obvious what happens... when you do nothing more than remove the viper, in
this case the predator. The plants, sometimes its so easy to do it. Its just a question of
removing the threat . I didnt think that the island, no one thought that the island
would respond so quickly. (Interview with the author, 2011)
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While lush fields of invasive grasses now cover the island, when the goats were there they
consumed everything, leaving almost no vegetation. Deep gullies still cut through the fields,
the result of erosion that occurred when rain fell on the deforested landscape.
After we jostled along the dirt road for an hour, we arrived at the meadow where the day
before we had placed 64 Sherman traps, thin metal boxes designed to catch live mice. Each
trap was filled with handfuls of a soft material called estopa and a generous pinch of
dry oats: bedding and food for a mouse for the night. We worked in teams of three to
measure and mark the mice we had caught, snapping on latex gloves and carrying stacks
of traps to the center of the quadrant. We worked surrounded by metal boxes, listening to
the scrabble of nails and teeth against metal as the mice gnawed at the metal doors of the
traps, fighting to escape. They occasionally chewed a hole through the trap and escaped,
fleeing into the field. The boxes emitted a pungent odor, which I realized after several days
was the smell of mouse urine and which became more noxious each day we reused the
bedding.
Work in the field required difficult judgments about the life and death of animals. At an
earlier field site, Gabriel and I watched as baby turtles emerged from their nests, struggling to
break free from their shells and dig themselves out of the sand. As they appeared, the orange
and purple land crabs waiting nearby grabbed them and ate the soft parts of their bodies. The
turtles that made it past the crabs were eaten by frigate birds as they reached the sea. I asked
Gabriel why they let the crabs eat the turtles, and he says, If the crabs were an invasive
species, wed kill them. But they are from here. Well kill the mice on the island, but not the
crabs. But we did not simply kill the mice on Guadalupe, even though they were unwanted
pests and GECIs ultimate purpose was to eliminate invasive species. Gabriel explained to me
that we were in the midst of an experiment that required that the mice live. By tracking how
many mice were recaptured each day, we developed an estimate of the population size,
a process would be repeated over the course of the year to establish when the population of
mice was at its lowest and thus easiest to eradicate. The data from this experiment showed
how mice moved around the quadrant and the range that each mouse covered, important
information so that when the time for eradication came, GECI could drop poison within easy
reach of each mouse. The data that we collect from these carefully tended mice would enable
GECI to eradicate subsequent generations.
Gabriel began processing the first trap, shaking the contents into a ziplock bag. A clump of
bedding fell out, followed by a mouse. He looked thoughtfully at the trap, feeling the weight,
and shook it again. A second and then a third mouse fell into the bag. He sealed the bag and
grabbed one mouse through the bag, pressing its whiskers and nose into the corner. Holding it
by the loose skin at the back of the neck, he extracted it from the bag. Gabriel manipulated the
mice expertly, rarely suffering bites. When I admired Gabriels technique with the mice, he
told me he used to be disgusted by them. He described himself as an oceanographer
masquerading as a biologist, and asserted that he was most comfortable and interested in sea
mammals mice were outside of his area of expertise and training. Flipping the mouse upside
down, he observed that it was female, not currently pregnant, and weighed it, while Flor, a
biology student studying in Ensenada and a volunteer with GECI, recorded the data. As
Gabriel held the mouse with a firm but not tight grip on its scruff, I pulled out a pair of pincers
and a rectangular metal tag a few millimeters long. Each tag was engraved with a three-digit
number, which I read to Flor before placing the tag on the mouses ear and clamping the
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Figure 3: Flor and fatty.


Source: Author photograph.

pincers shut, locking the tag in place. I then colored the mouses belly and tail with a green
permanent marker. Gabriel joked that I would think that GECIs primary goal was to make
animals more beautiful by giving them earrings and decorating them with colored markers.
Once the mouse was fully documented and marked, Gabriel returned it to the trap in which it
was caught. Once we processed all 64 traps, we released each mouse in the spot where it had
been captured.
When Gabriel grabbed the next mouse from the bag, we saw the glint of a metal tag in its
ear. Flor noted the number and returned the mouse to the trap. This was our third day in this
quadrant and some of the mice we encountered were being captured for a second or third
time. Flor grabbed the next trap, shaking out a fat little mouse. She remarked on how plump
he was, and how he nonchalantly continued to eat an oat even as she grabbed the scruff of his
neck. Youre my favorite, fatty! she exclaimed, Ill remember your number always. She
held him up next to her face, and I took their picture together. At this stage, prior to
eradicating the mice, we are engaged in caring for them in order to produce data. Alongside
that careful scientific work, we develop more individualized relationships with the mice
(Figure 3).
Even as we worked toward the eradication of these invaders, we developed an attachment
and affection for them. While handling hundreds of mice, we still distinguished among them
and found signature characteristics, attributing human qualities to our mousey friends. When
they squeaked, we identified it as their manner of singing or crying. Adriana and Matilde,
a contract employee on her second trip with GECI, kept up a steady stream of chatter.
Behave yourself! Dont you bite! My, arent you fat. And this one is quite a crybaby.
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If a mouse squeaked a lot while being handled, they joked that it was surely an adult
male. Matilde picked up a particularly big-eared mouse to put an earring in and exclaimed,
My what beautiful ears you have! And theyre going to be more beautiful now. She
complimented the next, remarking what a nice white belly you have. Every so often
Adriana held a mouse up to Matildes face and told her to give it kisses.
After we had caught and released mice for a few days, my skill at handling mice and piercing
ears had grown, although I still lagged behind Gabriel in skill level. When I manipulated and
measured the mice I was frequently bitten, a consequence of holding the scruff too loosely,
leaving the mouse enough flexibility to twist around and bite my hand. After a particularly
stinging bite mouse teeth, while not particularly sharp, can still deliver a painful pinch
I grabbed a mouse too tightly. Its eyes bulged, and before I had time to loosen my grip, the
mouse died. I inadvertently strangled it. I was shaken that I killed an animal and by how
quickly and easily it happened. When a mouse died accidentally in the course of our work,
Gabriel usually gave its chest a few thumps or a massage to try to revive it and then we buried
it in a grave near where we were working. One particularly cold morning, Matilde and I were
working together when I opened a trap to find bedding that was cold and wet with dew, and a
mouse so still I took it for dead. I showed it to Matilde who said, No, no, its not dead yet.
After we processed it, checking its sex and weight, she took the mouse and placed it in her
wool hat, which she dubbed the incubator. She tucked the hat inside her jacket to warm the
mouse. Emptying the rest of the traps, we found three more immobile, frigid mice. Matilde
took each one and put it in her hat. By the end of the morning, all four had warmed up, and
she set them free.
Eradication efforts tend to focus on larger species first, since they are easier to eradicate and it is
easier to prevent their reintroduction. One pregnant mouse hitching a ride on a ship could undo
years of eradication work, but it is less likely that larger animals like cats or goats would be
accidentally reintroduced. Larger, topographically complex islands like Guadalupe also make
eradication work more difficult there are more spaces for the animals to hide, and therefore
more chances for them to escape the eradication. GECIs work on the mouse population was
complicated by another invasive species long resident on the island. Many years before, cats had
been brought to the island as pets and to control the mouse population. Released on the island,
they had become feral and a worse pest than the mice, eating baby seabirds and eggs. When the
mouse population is low, cat predation on birds increases. While GECI thought that an
important next step in restoring the island was the removal of the cats, it was also possible that
removing cats could do more damage to the ecosystem. Without predators, the mouse population
could explode, and mice are also destructive, eating eggs and the seeds of native plants.
Our monitoring now was to establish what kind of predatorprey relationship exists
between mice and cats. Does cat predation control the size of the mouse population? Would
reducing the number of cats cause a growth in the number of mice? Or does the size of the
mouse population depend on the availability of food for the mice? Half of our quadrants were
located in fenced areas cats could not enter, but predatory birds and other native mouse
predators could. The other quadrants were open, accessible to cats. GECI had been
monitoring the cat population for 5 years, and mice for almost as long, and had found that
the size of the cat population tracked the size of the mouse population. If it rained, there would
be a corresponding increase in grass and seeds and shortly after that there would be more
mice, and eventually, more cats.
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Unlike the goats, the mice had no defenders. No one outside of GECI suggested that they
have any value or that they contributed anything positive to the island. As Rader notes, we
do not weigh the fate of all animals equally. The ethical yardstick by which animal
experimentation and use is measured is variable. While dogs and cats are seen as pets
and companions, mice have been hangers-onto human culture for thousands of years,
so their cultural identity as undesirable pests derived first and foremost from that
relationship (Rader, 2004, p. 36). As a result, she writes, few people have a strong
emotional attachment to mice or a great deal of concern about their fate. We had
conflicting feelings about mice, and it felt strange to be working with such care and effort
to handle them and keep them healthy at the same time that their presence on the island
was judged a destructive one.
When we finished processing mice, we sat in a line on the side of the road, bundled up in
jackets against the cold while we ate our lunch. After lunch, we headed back to activate the
traps for another night of mouse catching. As we walked through the fields, we heard the snap
of the traps behind us as mice entered them almost immediately after they were deposited. We
placed the traps in the evening, finishing as the sun began to set, and we started work early in
the morning so that the mice were not left baking in the metal boxes in the heat of the day. Our
schedule and work was arranged around carefully tending to this invasive creature, thinking
of their health and handling them with the utmost care. I found that we were caring for the
pest. While talk of invasive species is about eradication, elimination, prevention, thinking
about things that belong or do not belong, the day-to-day work is of caring for the animals
that are here. Producing knowledge about this population, whatever its history or fate on the
island, involves caring for the mice that are there now.
The mice slipped in and out of pest status, crossing borders back and forth between being
our friends and our enemies, between bios and zoe. One minute they were matter out of place,
destructive eaters of bird eggs, invaders of an island paradise and disgusting trespassers in our
living space. The next they were model animals for our research, that we tended to carefully,
identified and were affectionate with. Once they were made experimental subjects, they
became useful and valuable. We had an emotional relationship to our Guadalupe mice that
exceeded the ordinary connections between human and mice.
Hayward writes of the way animal bodies carry forms of domination, communion, and
activation into the folds of being. As we look for multispecies manifestations we must not ignore
the repercussions that these unions have for all actors. Hayward (2010) notes that in trying to
make sense of the corals she is working with she aids in their death; this species-sensing is not
easily refused by the animals (p. 592). Likewise, our care of the mice was non-optional for the
mice. We interacted with them and they left their marks on us, in the form of bites, torn gloves,
chewed-through traps and soiled bedding. But ultimately, we chose the terms of our engagement
with them. As Rader (2004) has observed, making mice into experimental models requires
caring for them, learning how to optimize their life in the laboratory. Our traps disciplined the
mice to be model animals for our experiment, which produced the knowledge necessary for their
eradication. At the same time, these mice were not quite laboratory animals. While the earrings
and markings turned them into measuring devices and instruments for us, they remained distinct
from lab mice, which are raised under carefully controlled conditions and are bred to be
standardized, easily exchangeable for one another and to have characteristics suited for
particular kinds of experiments. Furthermore, lab mice are not generally valued for their ability
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to produce knowledge about mice themselves, rather they are interesting for the way they can be
made to speak to other biological systems (ibid.). Here on Guadalupe, now configured as a field
site, we did not seek to alter the mices behavior. Instead, our goal was to enlist the mice as
collaborators so that we could describe and map their wild patterns of behavior. We cared for
them in order to enable our future betrayal.

Conclusion
Discourse about invasive species is revealing. The emotionally heightened rhetoric that people
use when they talk about alien species, representing them as sources of existential threat and risk,
demonstrates the ways in which they think about nativeness and purity, about insiders and
outsiders. However, this discourse, while effective in mobilizing action, does not capture the
complex ways in which humans and animals engage in the field. Looking at conservation
practices in Mexico demonstrates the ways in which invasive species become visible as a threat.
Within the context of a single island, the meaning of animal life and cross-species relationships
transformed as human priorities changed, remaking the island from slaughterhouse to field site
to laboratory. Thinking about the island within the national context of Mexican biodiversity and
ecosystem health, rather than its potential for producing meat for the local population, led
scientists to a reinterpretation of the value of animal lives. This interpretation went counter to the
various ways that other people, who did not see biodiversity as an essential or obvious resource,
used and relied on these ostensibly threatening animals. For scientists at GECI, the project was
about preserving the island for Mexico not just as a piece of property that significantly
extended the boundaries of the nation, but also as a place with a particular ecosystem.
As people began to think about the importance of the island in new contexts and at new
scales, slaughter for conservation replaced slaughter for food. Scientists transformed the island
from feedlot to laboratory, along the way incorporating animals into their scientific practice.
As much as the island was made to resemble a laboratory, however, the multispecies
relationships between humans and animals differed significantly from those between scientists
and model organisms in ordinary laboratories. Animals were instruments and recipients of
individualized care and attention, and goats and mice on Guadalupe were both loved and
betrayed. Scientists were engaged in simultaneously seeing and caring for the island and
exterminating, a far more complex relationship than simply annihilating a threat. Caring for
and subsequently betraying these animals to preserve the health of a larger area represents an
alternative multispecies relationship, one that is perhaps darker than the stories of companion
species, interspecies communications, connectivities or practices of living together that have
been characterized in other multispecies ethnographies.

Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Stefan Helmreich, Harriet Ritvo, Jean Jackson, David Jones, Nathan
Hogan and members of the History, Anthropology, and STS seminar at MIT and the Political
Ecology Working Group at Harvard for reading and commenting on drafts of this article. This
work has been supported by the Wenner Gren Foundation and the National Science
20

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Foundation. I am especially grateful to all the members of the Grupo de Ecologa y


Conservacin de Islas, who showed me their work, answered my questions and introduced
me to the islands of Mexico.

About the Author


Emily Wanderer is a doctoral candidate in the History, Anthropology and STS Program at
MIT. Her research is based in Mexico, where she studies the development of biosecurity
projects to protect human, animal and plant life.

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