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How the Tutururu Became the Bellwether for Threatened Species in Acteon and Gambier

As Earth Day approaches, Island Conservation will share stories of hope and success in conservation.

The Acteon and Gambier Archipelagos are home to a wide array of threatened, endemic wildlife, but the removal of invasive species has brought about new hope for native birds.

Only 150 of the Critically Endangered Polynesian Ground-doves, known locally as the Tutururu, remain in the wild, making it one of the world’s rarest birds. It is found on just five small atolls in French Polynesia in the Acteon and Gambier Archipelagos, which are located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, around 1,500 km (950 miles) from Tahiti.

French Polynesia comprises 125 islands and atolls spread over a vast 5,030,000 square kilometres of Pacific Ocean. These archipelagos have among the highest numbers of birds found nowhere else in the world (endemic) for tropical Pacific islands, exceeded only by the proportion that are globally threatened (37 percent).

The Challenge

Predation and competition by damaging, non-native (invasive) mammals in French Polynesia have driven this and other rare, endemic bird species to the brink of extinction. The species is listed by BirdLife International as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List—a category that signals an extremely high risk of extinction within our lifetimes.

The Solution

In 2015, a team of international conservation organizations set out to rid the island groups of invasive mammals. Combining resources, expertise, equipment, and logistical skills, a coalition of NGOs, BirdLife International, SOP Manu (BirdLife Partner, French Polynesia) and Island Conservation—together with the support of the government of French Polynesia, landowners, other partners and local volunteers—made the journey to French Polynesia’s remote islands—Vahanga, Tenarunga, Temoe, Kamaka, Makaroa and Manui to complete the challenging project.

Success

Just two years later—in 2017—five of six targeted islands were confirmed as predator-free—a ground-breaking one thousand hectares in total. Early signs already indicate that rare, endemic birds and other native plants and animals are recovering as the remote islands return to their former glory. The success of this project has now doubled the available habitat for the Polynesian Ground-dove, giving new hope to their recovery. 

Featured photo: Critically Endangered Polynesian Ground-dove. Credit: Marie-Helene Burle

About Anton Nebbe

Anton is a public relations, communications, and change management specialist with two decades of experience in a range of industries. He is a journalist by trade, having earned his qualifications in South Africa and reported on the country's transition into democratic rule. Having grown up in a conservation-minded family in Africa, that passion has stayed with him and he is delighted to volunteer with Island Conservation.

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