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Tuamotu Sandpiper
How three people helped protect an important population of the "Titi" in just four short weeks.

“Tititititi, Tititititi”

Visit the Tuamotu Archipelago of French Polynesia and you will be greeted by the distinct “titititititi” sound of the Tuamotu Sandpiper, or “Titi”, as it’s commonly referred to in the region.
 
The Titi is unique among shorebirds for feeding on nectar in addition to small insects. Once present throughout much of the Tuamotu archipelago, this small bird has been reduced to just four populations on four widely dispersed atolls. Today, it is listed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 
 
During June & July, Island Conservation completed operations to remove invasive rats from several islands on one of those atolls: Tahanea.  There is an estimated population of 150-200 Titi individuals on Tahanea.  Due to the presence of invasive rats on the atoll, approximately 20% of the Titi population is unable to breed, according to Simon Fraser University PhD student Marie-Hélène Burle. There is little known about the Titi, but Burle is changing that. She has been studying the small bird on Tahanea for four years, collecting data on its longevity, behavior, territoriality, demographics, feeding habits, and more.
 

 
Before removing invasive rats, the small number of Titi present on the islands had to be captured and held in captivity to prevent them from non-target exposure.  Ms. Burle capably led the capturing efforts, managing to capture 18 individuals, and held them in captivity for 3 weeks--the first time this species has been held in captivity by scientists! 
 
IC Island Restoration Specialist Madeleine Pott led a small team consisting of Ms. Burle and local resident Benoît Tapi to implement the removal of rats, which lasted four weeks. Despite several challenges, unpredictable weather, and choppy seas, the operations were successfully completed. 

Because of Island Conservation, Ms. Burle, and Benoît Tapi, the Titi of Tahanea now have newly expanded habitat and can safely breed without the threat of rats.

Tahanea Atoll in French Polynesia

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