Field Notes from Ua Huka and Teauau Islands

Island Conservation’s Restoration Specialist Jason Zito shares an update from Ua Huka and Teauau Islands of the Marquesas archipelago.

By: Jason Zito

Kaoha nui,

Coming at you from the charming village of Vaipae’e on the lovely isle of Ua Huka in the northern Marquesas archipelago in French Polynesia. We have successfully completed part one of operations on the motu of Teuaua, which is located just off the southwest corner of Ua Huka. We’re working to protect Sooty Terns from invasive rats. Local residents rely on Sooty Tern eggs as a food source, but now they are competing with the invasive rats to harvest them.

We’ve been dealing with some rough swell conditions as well as unseasonably wet weather here on Ua Huka, however, we have persevered thanks in no small part to our excellent team of local field technicians and boatmen. These compatriots have not only made this project possible, but have also kept things fun and interesting. The boat rides out to Teuaua in the rough swell took me back to our Marquesas feasibility trip earlier in January, but I am happy to report that the saddle sores have been traded for minor bone bruises this time.


View from Teuaua to Ua Huka. Credit: Jason Zito/Island Conservation

I again have to tip my hat to our local team—getting onto the island is no walk in the park, but by working together we successfully got our feet and gear on solid ground.   Having just repositioned my hat, I now need to take it off to the fantastic Tehani Withers, who, immediately after coordinating a month-long expedition to the Austral island of Rapa, has been set with the herculean task of handling the logistics and organization for this trip. This is no small effort in this part of the world, where flights, boats, and supply shipment arrangements have to be made sometimes months in advance and are difficult to alter once put in play—not to mention subject to fickle seas and weather.

I again have to tip my hat to our local team—getting onto the island is no walk in the park, but by working together we successfully got our feet and gear on solid ground.


Tehani Withers (SOP Manu) in the field. Credit: Jason Zito/Island Conservation

With the first application complete, Tehani and I will be departing Ua Huka tomorrow for the south Marquesas, while our team here on Ua Huka performs the remainder of the post-operational monitoring. Our first stop is the hub island of Hiva Oa where we will split up for further adventures. Tehani will be visiting the island of Tahuata for a consultation with local community leaders as well as to survey for the presence of invasive species (whose presence she hopefully does not detect!). I will be headed once more to Fatu-hiva–one of my happy places. There I will join up with Tom Ghestemme and Arthur Matohi from SOP Manu and we will continue to refine their successful invasive feral cat control program, which protects the endangered Fatu-hiva monarch population that nests in Omoa valley.

Tehani and I will be due back on Ua Huka shortly to resume and wrap up operations on Teuaua. By then the wounds on my head inflicted by angry dive-bombing Sooty Terns should have healed up to make space for a fresh set.


Featured photo: Flowers and a Seascape, Ua Huka. Credit: Jason Zito/Island Conservation
Versión en Español/Spanish transcript

About Jason Zito

Jason received a BS in Wildlife Management and Conservation from Humboldt State University. The bulk of his experience has been in the field of invasive species control. When not working, Jason enjoys the outdoors, cooking, self-subsistence, and most other good times in general.

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