Creating a Pacific Sanctuary
By Martin Fowlie, Wed, 10/12/2014 – 11:33
Pacific islands are under siege by invasive species, carelessly and un-naturally introduced by humans, and which are causing devastating problems for nature and people. The native species evolved on these tiny islands in safe isolation from such threats, leaving them defenceless to predators such as rats that eat their young and their food, and cause huge problems for the local people. As a result, a staggering 81 bird species are threatened with extinction today.
Removing these introduced invaders is the immediate priority. BirdLife International has identified the most important islands within the Pacific for native birds and biodiversity. We have already provided safe habitat for 12 globally threatened species (nine birds) and many others by removing rats and other killer invasives from 34 islands in five Pacific countries. One by one, through the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Palau, we are securing these islands and providing a long-term future for the unique wildlife that belongs there and turning back the approaching tide of extinction.
The situation remains dire in French Polynesia, where most native birds are at immediate risk of extinction. These remote, scattered archipelagos have a high number of endemic birds, many of which are globally threatened. The primary cause is invasive species which are pushing these unique birds toward extinction.
In the south-east of French Polynesia, are two globally important island groups – the Acteon group within the Tuamotu archipelago and the Gambier archipelago, both of which are under severe pressure and are high priorities for restoration action.
Within these two island groups are eight islands of international importance for birds and other biodiversity. They are among the most diverse for seabirds in French Polynesia, supporting 22 of the 27 native species that breed there including petrels and shearwaters, a particularly threatened order of seabirds. Endangered White-throated Storm-petrel and Phoenix Petrel are two of nine petrels that breed on the islands, which are also a wintering site for Vulnerable Bristle-thighed Curlew. They are also a last bastion for two globally threatened landbirds, the endemic and Critically Endangered Polynesian Ground Dove and the Endangered Tuamotu Sandpiper– the last remaining tropical sandpiper species.
Of the eight islands only two are predator free, the other six all harbour rats, feral cats, goats and rabbits which have either extirpated or are driving declines in these birds. The eradication of these threats provides the best opportunity for protecting an unprecedented number of birds in French Polynesia. Preparations for the removal of all five introduced species have been carefully planned over the past three years and having done this in consultation with the local community the operation is now set to take place in 2015. Our team of experts will ship the many tonnes of equipment including a helicopter the 1500km from Tahiti to the islands.
The removal of introduced pests there, planned for early 2015, will allow the re-establishment of populations of no less than nine globally-threatened birds and other wildlife.
How you can help
We have already secured $600,000 – enough to be tantalisingly close to reaching the full amount needed. Tackled in one big operation, economies of scale mean that for just $200,000 more, we can restore all six stunningly beautiful islands next year and we appeal to you now to help us.
Your generous support will be used to pay for hiring boats, helicopters staff and purchasing the equipment needed to ensure our years of careful planning is expertly implemented. Your support will allow the Critically Endangered Polynesian Ground-dove, Tuamotu Sandpiper, White-throated Storm-petrel, and Phoenix Petrel populations to recover. Safe from predators.
Please make a gift for nature this Christmas, and help us to restore the Gambia Archipelago to its former glory.