island conservation

Update from the Field: Great strides made to save Critically Endangered Polynesian Ground-dove

The epic saga to protect one of the world’s rarest and most endangered birds, the Polynesian Ground-dove (Alopecoenas erythropterus), continues with remarkable progress! Dozens of scientist, NGO, donor, and corporate collaborators hailing from England, French Polynesia, New Zealand, California, Wisconsin, and elsewhere are responsible for this years-in-the-making conservation melodrama!

The setting is six islands in the remote Acteon and Gambier archipelagoes of French Polynesia. The antagonists are non-native, invasive rats, rabbits, and feral cats introduced to these islands decades, if not centuries, ago.

And the tragedy of this tale? These invasive interlopers are eating native species out of house and home, driving our beloved native island species to the very precipice of extinction. This includes incredible birds like the Critically Endangered Polynesian Ground-dove and the Endangered Tuamotu Sandpiper (Prosobonia parvirostris), or the Tutururu and the Titi as they are referred to by our local partner communities.

Who then are our story’s heroes? YOU! With your help, support, cheerleading, and interests from around the globe, our intrepid field team has been losing weight and sleep as they brave rough seas, searing sun and heat, tropical storms, logistical challenges, and the ever-ellusive, yet dwindling, cast of invasive predators. With a little more hard work and continued good luck and support from you, we hope to bring you the exciting conclusion of this tale soon. In the meantime, here’s the latest chapter from Island Conservation’s Project Director, Richard Griffiths, signaling great progress toward a happy conclusion to our story.

Click here to read Richard’s first update from the field.

Richard Reports via Satallite COMMs Link – June 25, 2015 

Ia ora na!

The project continues to go well. Tommy Hall, David Will, David Derand, Steve Cranwell, Roberto and I all returned today to Rikitea from all points of the compass. 

Tommy and David were working with Jason Zito to remove the last invasive predators from Tenarunga.  Because the local copra (coconut) harvesters left a lot of leftover copra (a potential food source for rats) on the island, the team has been working with the community and project partners to burn piles of coconuts they find. They also recently found a female Polynesia Ground-dove looking extremely healthy! An exciting discovery!

Steve and David D. have been on Vahanga with Maddy Pott where the monitoring has been going well.  They also have seen ground doves in recent days. Hopefully a sign of things to come!  The team that went to Tenararo to survey the ground dove population report that the population is doing well with up to 150 individuals present.

Roberto (Manu’s Treasurer) and I have been on Manui removing the last of the invasive rabbits. Along with Motu Teiku, Manui escaped the introduction of invasive rats and the seabird populations on those islands are just phenomenal.  We’ve watched thousands of Audubon Shearwaters arrive each night along with 100’s of Murphy’s and Polynesian Storm-petrels. It’s a great place to spend some time although not if you want any peace and quiet or sleep!

Tomorrow we head to Temoe to continue removal efforts, weather permitting.

The team is in high spirits although all we are all looking a little thinner. The French may be the masters of haute cuisine but be careful trusting them to cater for a long period in the field 😉

Best regards

There is still work to be done and we can’t do it without you. You can join our crusade to save the Critically Endangered Polynesian Ground-dove and Endangered Tuamotu Sandpiper by pitching in here. Birdlife International is also providing regular project updates, you can follow along here.

Thank you for your support!

About this project:
BirdLife International, with SOP Manu (BirdLife Partner in French Polynesia) and Island Conservation, is leading an extensive island restoration operation in a remote area of French Polynesia to save Critically Endangered birds species and restore the delicate ecological balance. Our ambitious project is restoring the Acteon & Gambier archipelagos to their former glory, safe and ready for the reintroduction of Tuamotu Sandpiper and Polynesian Ground-dove, and benefiting many other wildlife.

By sharing transport, equipment and expertise, we’ve significantly reduced the cost of restoring all six islands that are threatened, but is nonetheless our biggest project of the decade.

Additional technical assistance has come from the Pacific Invasives Intiative and the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

This project has received support from many international and national organisations with significant funding from the European Union, the British Birdwatching Fair, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund; sponsorships from Bell Laboratories and T-Gear Trust Canada; and assistance from the Government of French Polynesia and many individual people around the world.

But crucially we still need your help! Click here today to become part of this team!