BBC features Island Conservation’s Director of Communications and Marketing as part of a piece on sustainable development and conservation on Tetiaroa Atoll.
Tetiaroa Atoll, located just north of Tahiti, is probably best known for its famous resort—The Brando. The luxury eco-resort, inspired by Marlon Brando’s vision for to preserve the atoll and explore sustainable ways of living, is on track to become carbon-neutral and self-sustaining.
The resort works in close partnership with the atoll’s nonprofit organization, Tetiaroa Society. Tetiaroa Society leads the scientific and cultural mission to protect the atoll and to inspire sustainable interdependence on Tetiaroa and around the world.
In recent years, to the partners have worked to remove invasive mosquitoes from the atoll by releasing non-biting male mosquitos that have been infected with Wolbachia bacteria. This bacteria, when spread to females, causes them to become sterile—reducing the population by at least 95%.
Looking to the future, Tetiaroa Society, local partners, and Island Conservation are hoping to tackle another invasive species causing harm for local wildlife—invasive rats.
Rats can cause the collapse of the entire terrestrial ecosystem,” says Island Conservation’s Sally Esposito.
In 2017, the Tetiaroa Society, Island Conservation, the University of Auckland, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) began studying the islands of Reiono and Rimatuu to better understand how to remove invasive rats from the island. Implementation of removal of rats was conducted in 2018 on Reiono. The next phase of the project is to remove invasive rats from Rimatuu.
Island Conservation and Tetiaroa Society are looking to use innovative technology such as drones to remove invasive rats. This operation would be only the second ever after a similar project on Seymour Norte Island in the Galápagos. Esposito explained:
Tetiaroa is a more difficult environment, so it’s a great opportunity to test the drones further, and should help us to create a haven for endangered native species, such as the Polynesian Ground-dove and the Tuamotu Sandpiper.”
The hope is that one day all islands within Tetiaroa Atoll will be completely free of invasive rats and mosquitoes, allowing native wildlife to thrive.
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