Polynesian rare birds news


This 2012 video says about itself:

Polynesian Ground Dove (Gallicolumba erythroptera) filmed on a motu of Rangiroa Atoll, French Polynesia. Part of a Noble Caledonia Expedition Cruise in French Polynesia on board M/V Clipper Odyssey.

Dr Brent Stephenson (ornithologist on board) organised this trip across the atoll to a rat-free motu (islet) where the Société d’Ornithologie Polynésie (MANU) are making great efforts to monitor, protect and extend the present habitat of this bird. Great efforts are made to make sure no rats are introduced. The Polynesian Ground Dove is critically endangered with only an estimated 100-200 individuals in the world. Nine birds were counted on this motu in 2011.

From BirdLife:

Operation Restoration – island update #4 – Endangered birds found, and sharks

By Shaun Hurrell, Fri, 26/06/2015 – 10:30

The Critically Endangered Polynesian Ground-dove is one of the world’s rarest birds. Named Tutururu by locals, there are only about 100 of these birds left in the world – all found in French Polynesia.

So finding them in good numbers on an invasive predator-free atoll was pretty exciting for our Operation Restoration team – who are working hard to save these birds (and many more native species) from extinction, and restore the natural ecological balance of the islands. It gives a very positive indicator of how these birds will bounce back after we have finished restoring their islands. But these birds still need your help.

With a huge amount of work still to do to restore 6 remote islands in the Acteon and Gambier archipelagos, this would have undoubtedly been a big morale boost for Steve Cranwell and the team, especially when faced with sharks snapping at their heels!

Find out more in the latest update below from Steve Cranwell, Project Leader and invasive species expert:

Steve’s reports via satelite phone 19th June

Sorry for the delay in communications – the magnitude of the practical reality of this operation set in, and we have been extremely busy fulfilling the myriad of tasks for this ambitious restoration effort! Amazingly (given all that could go wrong) we’re on track.

The ground team and helicopter crew, assisted by locals at each site, soon developed a slick and efficient operation for loading, whilst managing to keep loose bags and other paraphernalia potentially catastrophic to the helicopter in check…

This ground effort and precision flying meant that by the time we got to Vahanga and Tenania we were able to complete the operations there in half the time anticipated!

Some of the team spent the first week or so searching for Tutururu [local name for Polynesian Ground-dove] and Titi [local name for Tuamotu Sandpiper] on Vahanga. Despite being elusive, the efforts were rewarded with one male (named Charlie) and female Tutururu, and four Titi.

Some other team members have stayed on Tenararo to complete a census of Tutururu and Titi. This is the first time such a thorough assessment will have been made for this predator-free atoll. Initial reports indicate good numbers of both species.

When a lagoon channel crosses a monitoring transect, as it invariably does, there is a little adventure as overly attentive Blacktip reef sharks make a beeline for any submerged body part! Alertness and a stout stick has proved a sufficient deterrent (so far)…

On Temoe, a seabird census and vegetation survey was completed and a significant increase in Murphy’s petrel (several hundred to over one thousand!) was noted, from a similar survey made several years earlier.

Baseline surveys are being made for all sites which are being augmented with acoustic recorders as a means of tracking changes in the number of calls for species of interest.

More to follow shortly!

On behalf of us all,

Steve

Update 29 July 2015: here.

Save Tuamotu sandpipers


This video says about itself:

Tuamotu Sandpiper, 7th September 2013, Morane Island, SE Pacific

22 September 2013

A unique shorebird. BirdLife estimates 870 mature individuals and 1,300 birds in total. Endemic to the Tuamotu archipelago.

From BirdLife:

Seasonal help needed for tropical sandpiper

By Martin Fowlie, Mon, 22/12/2014 – 15:59

We have raised 76% of the funds needed to restore six stunningly beautiful Pacific islands next year but we still need your help.

Help us now.

Pacific islands are under siege by invasive species introduced by humans. As a result, a staggering 81 bird species are threatened with extinction today.

Removing these introduced invaders is the immediate priority for BirdLife International.

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.

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 Gambier Archipelago to its former glory.

Organisations supporting this project include SOP Manu (BirdLife in French Polynesia), the European Union, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the British Birdwatching Fair, the Canadian T/GEAR Charitable Trust and Bird Studies Canada, Island Conservation and Bell Laboratories.

Saving birds in French Polynesia


This video is called Polynesian Ground Dove, Rangiroa, French Polynesia.

From BirdLife:

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.

‘Gambia Archipelago’ is clearly a mistake for ‘Gambier Archipelago‘. The Gambia is in Africa; not in the Pacific.

Good Tahiti monarch news


This video is about white terns in French Polynesia.

From BirdLife:

Support saves forgotten Monarch

By Shaun Hurrell, Wed, 11/06/2014 – 10:39

The fire ants and devastating rains hit as the funding dried up, but thanks to your huge support Critically Endangered Tahiti Monarch is having its best ever breeding season, with 12 successful fledglings and one nest still active.

Earlier this year we awarded SOP Manu (the Polynesian Ornithological Society: BirdLife in French Polynesia) the first BirdLife People’s Choice Award for their tireless efforts to bring the Tahiti Monarch Pomarea nigra back from the brink of extinction. You recognised Manu’s desperate work which resulted in a highly successful 2013 breeding season for this Critically Endangered, inquisitive flycatcher.

However, there is no rest when it comes to protecting one of the rarest birds in the world from habitat loss and introduced invasive species. Following the award, Manu urgently reported a need for more support. As funding for conservation dried up, heavy rain, winds, invasive predatory rats and fire ants threatened the 10 remaining breeding pairs in a steep wooded valley in the South Pacific. That’s 10 breeding pairs in the entire world.

In response we launched an urgent campaign to raise the £33,000 Manu needed to fight these threats. The response was overwhelming. Thanks to your support we have raised £33,370 and as donations are still coming in, the Tahiti Monarch is having its best ever breeding season.

“This is fantastic. Thank you to all the people who have supported our work. Manu now feel that we are not alone in trying to save this remote, beautiful and very endangered species,”

said Caroline Blanvillain, Head of Land Birds at Manu.

The money raised is being targeted towards the most important actions on the ground: tackling invasive species and restoring degraded habitat for the 50 monarchs currently residing only on the island of Tahiti in French Polynesia.

Manu are already starting work to eradicate a fire ant colony at the entrance of Papehue valley, the monarch’s main stronghold. This will take eight months as the ant colony covers four hectares. These invasive species are originally from South America and form supercolonies. Also within the birds’ breeding range there are two other large ant colonies that will be controlled before they spread and overpower the birds with their collective stings.

Manu are also using the funds raised to work with local school children to restore these friendly birds’ habitat, through education and trips into the valley to clear invasive plants and to plant native trees.

Despite facing powerful weather forces, Manu are showing that invasive-species removal combined with habitat restoration can successfully reverse the species’ decline towards extinction.

“We have now reached 12 successful fledglings which betters the record from last year. We also still have one active nest which suggests we may have the first second brood for the species we’ve ever recorded!”

celebrated Caroline.

“We now know that the world is behind us, and this is a very nice feeling,”

concluded Caroline, thanking all the people who have generously supported their work.

Algerian desert dust infected with French bomb radioactivity


This video is about a French nuclear weapons test in Algeria.

By David Lowry in Britain:

Is Saharan dust radioactive?

Friday 4th April 2014

As Britain is blanketed in a layer of desert sand, DAVID LOWRY asks whether it could be contaminated by fallout from French nuclear tests in Algeria more than 50 years ago

South-easterly winds have coated Britain in a toxic Saharan dust cloud.

Combined with domestic pollution, the sand has caused air quality to plummet and engulfed many parts of the country in smog-like conditions.

But one unreported aspect of the Saharan dust is that it could be radioactive.

French nuclear testing in Algeria, conducted during the height of the independence struggle, spread radioactive fallout across southern Europe in the early 1960s – and the radioactivity that settled on the desert could have been resuspended in this natural fallout event over Britain.

It’s recently been revealed that atmospheric spread of the radioactive fallout was much larger than the French army admitted at the time.

New reports by the France 24 TV station suggest that the fallout from the tests at Reggane in central Algeria stretched across all of west Africa, across the Mediterranean and up to southern Europe.

The information came to light following appeals from military veterans who say their current ill health is linked to exposure to dangerous levels of radiation.

France‘s first nuclear deviceGerboise Bleue” (Blue Jerboa) was more than three times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.

Thirteen days after it was detonated, in February 1960, radioactive particles ranged from the Central African Republic to Sicily and southern Spain.

At the time the French military authorities said the fallout from the explosion was limited to the desert and that radiation levels were “generally low.”

But associations representing military veterans of France’s nuclear tests in the 1960s and 1970s are demanding that the government admits it knew that the fallout from Saharan tests was dangerous.

“In the 1960s the norms governing acceptable levels of radiation were much less strict than they are now,” said Bruno Barillot, an expert in nuclear tests who is representing veterans’ groups.

“And the medical evidence we have now shows clearly that exposure to this radiation can set off serious illnesses more than three decades later,” he told Le Parisien.

Barillot added that the declassified documents showed that the army at the time was aware that even the 1960s safety levels were largely surpassed and that significant quantities of airborne radioactive particles, particularly iodine 131 and caesium 137, could have been inhaled by large numbers of people in north Africa.

He also complained that the government had been extremely selective in terms of what documents to release.

The Parisien article points out that “if it can be demonstrated that the fallout of the bomb tests spread dangerous levels radiation over large parts of north Africa, many more demands for compensation from individuals and from national governments could be in the pipeline.”

I found this suggestion interesting, as I had been involved in research on this issue over 20 years, when I did research for the now retired Labour MP Llew Smith.

In October 1993 he asked in a written question to the secretary of state for defence whether he would ask his French counterpart for information on the French atmospheric nuclear tests in Reganne, citing article 34 of the Euratom treaty.

This treaty says that member states intending to conduct dangerous experiments in any part of their territories require permission from the European Commission and are required to seek its advice on health and safety.

In reply the junior defence minister Jonathan Aitken answered: “Article 34 of the Euratom treaty does not apply to military activities.”

Just over two years later Labour MEP Alex Smith, for whom I also did research, asked the European Commission what technical information the French government had provided about the environmental and safety implications of nuclear tests in Algeria and which “independent external individuals or institutions” the commission had consulted.

He was told by was told by environment commissioner V Bjerregaard in 1996 that France had notified the commission in July 1959 that it intended to carry out a nuclear explosion in the Sahara desert and “the additional safety measures envisaged.”

The commission replied the following month and “gave a favourable opinion while proposing some modifications.”

Bjerregaard said: “These concerned the timing of the explosion with regard to meteorological conditions, the volume of radioactive dust generated in relation to the characteristics of the soil and the need to comply with the dose limits in … basic safety standards that were laid down by the Council on February 2 1959.”

France carried out the first explosion in February 1960.

Bjerregaard said that “subsequent tests were carried out taking similar safety measures.”

From 1960 to 1996, France carried out 210 nuclear tests, 17 in the Algerian Sahara and 193 in Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia.

Yet Bjerregaard admitted that “no further notifications to the commission in terms of Article 34 of the Euratom Treaty were received, neither at the start of nuclear testing at Mururoa in 1966 nor before underground testing [in the South Pacific] was resumed on September 5 1995.”

So clearly Euratom’s remit did apply to military nuclear activities, despite the MoD denial.

For more of David Lowry’s writing visit drdavidlowry.blogspot.co.uk.

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Save Tahiti monarch birds


This video says about itself:

The motu (islet in Polynesian) of Hemeni in French Polynesia is called Bird Island because of the large colony of sooty terns (Onychoprion fuscatus) that come to nest on its rocky shoulders.

Role of body size in shaping the trophic structure of tropical seabird communities: here.

From BirdLife:

Tahiti Monarch conservation wins first BirdLife People’s Choice Award as new threats emerge

By Nick Askew, Tue, 25/02/2014 – 07:27

Results revealed today show that Manu (Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie: BirdLife in French Polynesia) has won a public vote to become the first BirdLife People’s Choice Award. However, celebrations were short-lived as new threats from invasive species and heavy rain threaten the last 10 breeding pairs in the world.

“Looking back at 2013, there are so many achievements to highlight from within the BirdLife Partnership”, said Dr Hazell Shokellu Thompson – Interim Chief Executive of BirdLife International. “Congratulations to Manu for their work controlling invasive species in the Tahiti Monarch’s home range which enabled last year to be the best breeding season since they started their work sixteen years ago!”

Manu have been monitoring monarchs, controlling introduced predators such as rats and improving habitat for the Critically Endangered species since 1998. Manu’s award-winning work marries conservation education with cutting-edge science. Children raise native trees in their school’s tree nursery, volunteers plant the trees, and ecologists worked with volunteers to combats introduced species.

As a result last year saw the most successful breeding season on record; some pairs raised two broods, and double the number of chicks compared to previous seasons. The project forms part of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme which is saving the world’s most threatened birds from extinction.

However, 2014 is bringing new threats, heavy rains have been battering Tahiti for the last fortnight posing a risk to fledglings as they leave the nest. Fire ants, capable of eating adults, chicks and eggs, within minutes, have been found on the edge of the Tahiti Monarch’s valley, while funds for the conservation work have dried up.

‘’These conditions are bad for the breeding birds”, warned Caroline Blanvillain from Manu. “Monarchs need continuous predator control to keep them safe, and if we don’t quickly eradicate the fire ant colonies they will reach the birds and kill them.’’

“We need to act now, the 10 breeding pairs are struggling to keep their nests safe. On Friday, eight chicks had survived the rain, now every chick needs to be given a chance against the rats and the ants. If we can raise enough funds we can make the forest safe for the fledglings.’’

In order to help tackle the threats to the Tahiti Monarch, BirdLife and Manu have launched an urgent appeal for funding. Together they need to raise £33,000 to ensure a safe 2014 breeding season. Please support the Tahiti Monarch urgent appeal. Your support can provide:

£15 will run a rat baiting-station for the next three months as eggs hatch.
£30 will run a rat baiting-station for six months as chicks leave the nest for the first time.
£60 will run a rat baiting-station for a whole year so fledglings can mature in safety and return to the breeding sites next season to raise their own young.

Please help to create a forest full of fledglings by donating here. Every penny helps.

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New beaked whale species re-discovery


This video says about itself:

Blainville’s beaked whale / Mésoplodon de Blainville (Mesoplodon densirostris)

22 Aug 2010

Underwater footage of a unique encounter with a Blainville’s beaked whale in French Polynesia. Marine Mammal Study Group (www.gemmpacific.org).

From Wildlife Extra:

Researchers discover rare new species of deep-diving whale

Based on the study of seven animals stranded on remote tropical islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans over the past 50 years, researchers have identified a new species of the mysterious family of beaked whales.

Beaked whales, a widespread but little-known type of toothed whale, distantly related to sperm whales, are found in deep ocean waters beyond the edge of the continental shelf throughout the world’s oceans.

“They are rarely seen at sea due to their elusive habits, long dive capacity and the apparent low abundance of some species,” said Dr Merel Dalebout, the international team leader. “Understandably, most people have never heard of them.”

The first specimen of the new species was a female found on a Sri Lankan beach more than 50 years ago. On 26 January 1963, a 4.5m long, blue-grey beaked whale washed up at Ratmalana near Colombo. The then director of the National Museums of Ceylon, P.E.P (Paulus) Deraniyagala, described it as a new species, and named it Mesoplodon hotaula, after the local Singhala words for ‘pointed beak’.

However, two years later, other researchers reclassified this specimen as an existing species, Mesoplodon ginkgodens, named for the tusk-like teeth of the adult males that are shaped like the leaves of a ginkgo tree.

“Now it turns out that Deraniyagala was right regarding the uniqueness of the whale he identified. While it is closely related to the ginkgo-toothed beaked whale, it is definitely not the same species,” said Dr Dalebout. “The ginkgo-toothed beaked whale is only known from about 30 strandings and has never been seen alive at sea with any certainty. It’s always incredible to me to realise how little we really do know about life in the oceans. There’s so much out there to discover. ”

The researchers used a combination of DNA analysis and physical characteristics to identify the new species from seven specimens found stranded in Sri Lanka, the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati), Palmyra Atoll in the Northern Line Islands near Hawaii, the Maldives, and the Seychelles.

With the re-discovery of Mesoplodon hotaula, there are now 22 recognised species of beaked whales.

The scientific description of the re-discovered species is here.

A total of 93 whales have become stranded on Florida beaches in the past two months, almost three times the average, reports the local news agency, the Sun Sentinel. These large numbers have baffling marine biologists, making them wonder if a deadly common denominator is at play, such as a series of cold fronts affecting Florida in the past month: here.

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