• S. Cranwell

    French Polynesia and Fiji: Saving imperilled birds by eradicating invasive, exotic fauna

In Brief

Location:

Three South Pacific islands:  Moho tani in the Marquesas of French Polynesia, Rapa is in southern French Polynesia, and Rotuma in Fiji.

Goal:

To avert the extinction of endangered, endemic birds on islands in the Pacific and secure their future.

Conservation Value:

Historically the greatest threat to biodiversity on islands everywhere, but particularly in the remote islands of the South Pacific, has occurred with the arrival of species that are not native to these islands. For endemic birds, which tend have small populations, there is a long list of introduced mammals, birds, and herpetofauna that prey on them, destroy their habitats, or out-compete them for nesting cavities or food resources.  Due to the impacts of invasive species, 35 species of birds are endangered just in French Polynesia. This project aims to eradicate invasive species at three disparate sites.  If successful, this will stop the decline of many endemic birds and other local species, and ultimately to restore biodiversity to the natural ecosystems on the three islands.

Threats:

Invasive species often wreak havoc on arrival in areas that evolved species that cannot compete with the unnatural introduction of new competitors. This project works to control or eradicate some targeted invasives including the common myna and the cane toad that only just arrived on Rotuma in Fiji in the past two years, before they take hold and spread; introduced rats and cats on seven islands in the Marquesas; and rats and goats on Rapa in southern French Polynesia.  The myna is a competitor of a number of native birds including the striking red and black Rotuman myzomela - an endemic entirely restricted to Rotuma.  Both birds are generalist feeders, but the aggressive myna dominates competition for food and nest sites and may prey on myzomela eggs and hatchlings. With little refuge from myna, the myzomela population will inevitably decline once the myna reaches the densities typical of other tropical islands.  In the Marquesas of French Polynesia 7 species of birds are threatened with possible extinction.  Among those are four Endangered species (Phoenix petrel, white-throated storm petrel, Marquesas monarch, and Marquesas ground dove) and one Vulnerable species (bristle-thighed curlew) and other endemic plants and wildlife. In Rapa, seabirds dominate the avian fauna with eleven species including the endemic and Critically Endangered Rapa shearwater (Puffinus myrtae) and two species of storm petrel; the Endangered Polynesian storm petrel (Nesofregetta fuliginosa) and an endemic subspecies of white-bellied storm petrel (Fregetta grallaria titan). The endemic Rapa fruit dove (Ptilinopus huttoni) is also Critically Endangered. All of these iconic birds are threatened with extinction primarily due to introduced rats, feral cats and ungulates (goats, cattle and horses). 

Actions & Results:

The following actions are starting in 2019.

  • Capture and eradicate an estimated 10+ pairs of common myna birds and complete a cane toad survey and assessment on Rotuma Island, Fiji
  • Remove cats and rats (with rodenticide) in the Marquesas, while establishing a captive population of the Marquesas ground dove and Marquesas monarch.  
  • Launch a goat removal program in Rapa island to save the Rapa shearwater from extinction.

Project Field Partner:

Birdlife International Pacific and the Société d'Ornithologie de Polynésie

Size of Area Involved:

Rotuma Island (Fiji), 4,300 ha; Mohotani Island (French Polynesia), 1,500 ha; Rapa iti Island, 4,000 ha (French Polynesia).

Cost:

First year commitment $96,430 (2019-20)

This project is funded by the T-Gear Foundation, to whom we are grateful for making this important work possible.

In More Depth...

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