Saving seabirds of Tahiti


This 2012 video is called Tahiti Petrel Release.

From BirdLife:

23 Jan 2018

Saluting the Nature’s Heroes who help dazed seabirds

A volunteer network of 75 individuals on the French Polynesian island of Tahiti care for and release grounded and injured seabirds

By Nick Langley

The Groupe des sauveteurs des oiseaux marins is a volunteer network of 75 individuals on the French Polynesian island of Tahiti, who care for and release grounded and injured seabirds, mostly petrels. Most of the ‘sauveteurs’ are members of the BirdLife Partner SOP Manu, which coordinates their work, and which has nominated the group as Nature’s Heroes for 2017.

Petrels and shearwaters nest on the steep inland slopes of the volcanic high islands of French Polynesia. They dig burrows in loose soil, or nest at ground level in crevices between rocks. The SOP Manu volunteers most often find themselves dealing with the Tahiti petrel (Pseudobulweria rostrata), which breeds across French Polynesia and beyond.

As on other islands across the world, the main threats to these ground-nesting species are introduced mammal predators, especially rats, feral cats, dogs and pigs that eat the eggs and young. But over the last 20 years, another danger has been identified on Tahiti: light pollution. When the fledglings take flight for the first time, they are often disorientated by the lights of the ever-growing urbanised areas nearby. Some fall to the ground and are unable to take off again, leaving them at risk of starving to death, or being eaten by cats or dogs. Others suffer potentially fatal injuries from collisions with buildings or fences.

Most uninjured birds only need a little help to resume their journeys out to sea. Although they struggle to take off on their own from a flat, hard surface, they usually take to the air quite easily if released on the sea. And that’s where the volunteers of the Groupe des sauveteurs des oiseaux marins step in.

Members of the public who find grounded birds while on their way home from a night out, or as they set out for work in the morning, ring the dedicated SOS Petrels hotline. The phone is answered by a volunteer day or night, weekends and holidays included. Although the birds come down at night, they may not be found until later in the day. The hotline operator then either calls the nearest volunteer, or asks the caller to take the bird to one of the islands veterinary surgeries, where a volunteer will collect it later. Most of the veterinarians of Tahiti -and Moorea, Raiatea and Bora Bora -are part of the network, and take care of the birds, and if necessary treat their injuries, for no charge.

On Tahiti there appears to be a peak of breeding activity between March and July, with young birds fledging from July to October. The parents spend the day out at sea fishing, returning to their nests at night to feed their young. After some ten weeks, the fledgling petrels, unaccompanied by their parents, launch themselves from the nesting slopes in preparation for spending their adolescent years at sea.

Fallen fledgling juvenile petrels can be found almost anywhere there are lights, in roads and on rooftops, in private gardens and public spaces. Before the birds are released, they are inspected, weighed and measured, providing valuable data about petrel health and demographics.

The birds are often thirsty, sometimes hungry or their plumage may need its waterproofing restored by rest and preening. “Sometimes they are exhausted, or too young (still fluffy), or injured, in which case, they are placed with host families who will take care of them and feed them as long as necessary before releasing them”, explains SOP MANU’s biologist, Thomas Ghestemme.

The volunteers, who are SOP MANU members from all walks of life, including young, working age and retired people, are organised in four zones, in the East, West, North and South of Tahiti. Each zone has a coordinator, usually someone able to devote more time to the work, and with a higher level of training. There are coordinators and volunteers on other islands, including Moorea, Tetiaroa, Raiatea, Tahuata, Bora Bora, Hiva Oa and Rapa, for a total of 84 people and rising across French Polynesia.

In 2012, the first year of operation, the number of confirmed cases of grounded Tahiti Petrels rose from 10 to 100, but the coordinators knew that this was the tip of the iceberg. To raise awareness of the plight of the petrels, posters, flyers and stickers were designed and distributed, articles were published in newspapers, short documentaries broadcast on radio and television, and presentations given in schools. As public knowledge of the network grew, so did the number of reports. By 2017, the volunteers were responding to calls about 400 stranded birds per year.

“People who call the SOS Petrels hotline are generally very friendly, very demanding of information of all kinds”, says SOP MANU’s Monique Franc de Ferrière. “When we come to pick it up’ it is not uncommon for the member of the public who just saved a wild bird to want to know much more about it. We talk about the actions of the association, the environmental problems that challenge the country, in addition to everything about the bird just rescued. All this contributes to the awareness of the petrels, and the strengthening of the rescue network, because people who have collected a bird talk about this experience with their relatives, and sometimes ask to enter the network themselves.” Conferences and meetings are organised, where people can learn how to release petrels safely.

The network has built up information about the “worst” lights on the island -those that cause most problems for petrels. “We inform people about the danger of these lights and encourage them to turn them off at night, at least during the flight of juveniles. We point out that they can save money on their electricity bill!” adds Robert Luta, SOP Manu’s President.

“In places where it is impossible to turn off these lights, like hotels, airports, and seaports, we train the personnel to provide ‘first aid’ to the birds, and call the hotline as soon as possible. We are all working with town halls and other administrators to find ways of making lights less dangerous, but the volunteers will probably remain essential for a very long time.”

Extinct Polynesian snails are back on Tahiti


This November 2016 video, in English from the Netherlands, says about itself (translated):

For the first time ARTIS zoo in Amsterdam has released Polynesian tree snails into their original habitat in Tahiti. It is about Polynesian tree snails, extinct in the wild (Partula nodosa).

Along with several international zoos ARTIS tries to save three tree snail species. The Insectarium of ARTIS has arranged a special breeding facility since December 2015 for reproduction of three tree snail species. In less than a year in ARTIS over 200 Polynesian tree snails grew up. In November this year, an ARTIS caretaker flew with 877 snails from various zoos to Tahiti. Small as they are, the snails play an important role in the ecosystem, biodiversity and cultural history of Tahiti. Read more here.

Saving Tahiti monarchs


Tahiti monarch

From BirdLife:

Community action saving iconic Tahiti Monarch

By Mike Britton, Wed, 28/10/2015 – 21:21

The decline of the Tahiti Monarch is being reversed by ongoing and intensive action by BirdLife French Polynesian partner Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie (SOP MANU) and the local community. For the first time in many years the population has topped 50 birds with 17 pairs incubating 31 nests last summer and fledging 12 chicks. Small gains but with a species so close to extinction, this is a welcome outcome.

It is currently restricted to 4 lowland valleys where it is threatened by degradation of it habitat, black rats and the introduced Red-vented Bulbul and Common Myna which prey on eggs, chicks and compete for food and habitat. To add to their woes, Little Fire Ant is now spreading into the valleys.

Botanical pest Miconia calvescens, introduced in 1937, has replaced the high dense forest in one of its key habitats. This decline is likely to continue as the other forest habitat is largely composed of introduced invasive species, such as the African tulip tree Spathodea campanulata, and usually confined to a narrow strip along the floor of steep basalt canyons.

With all these threats the growing recognition by the local people of the icon status of Tahiti Monarch and their support for its conservation has been critical in reversing the population decline. They help to maintain 396 rat control stations and control and monitor mynas and bulbuls. More than 280 volunteers/day and 15 landowners/day went to remove Miconia, Triplaris and other invasive introduced plants during 27 one day fieldtrips in one year. Volunteers, land owners and children at the local school have grown 529 seedlings of ‘useful’ trees and shrubs for Tahiti Monarch.

It is a battle maintaining ongoing controls to stop the impact of invasive species. It can be done and in New Zealand the BirdLife Partner controls predators throughout the almost 3000ha Ark in the (Waitakere) Park near Auckland allowing long gone species like Kokako to be reintroduced. And as part of the vision of having a predator free New Zealand, some exciting new control methods are being developed. The concept of `mainland sanctuaries’ is now a reality. It is the way to bring endangered species off the islands back to their original homes where they can once again become part of the dawn chorus. But getting funds for ongoing habitat protection projects in the Pacific is much more difficult even with community support.

The best longer term chance to save the Tahiti Monarch is to establish a second population on another island without the same level of threats, especially black rat. Rimatara Island, home of the Rimatara Lorikeet, has been considered based on the absence of Black Rat, Common Myna, Red-vented Bulbul and Swamp Harrier, and the availability of suitable nesting habitat. But a growing human population on the island and the loss of forest, as well as the potential to spread disease, has meant that proposal is being reviewed and other islands being considered. BirdLife is currently seeking funds to allow SOP Manu to complete a study to identify the best option and plan for the transfer.

It’s ambitious. That is why we need sponsors to help us ensure this beautiful bird is not lost. If you can help please make a donation or get in touch.

French Ministry of Education awards school children for their contribution to saving the Tahiti Monarch: here.

Winged Predators and an Ill wind threaten newly fledged Tahiti Monarchs: here.

A tale with a message – search for lost Tahiti Monarch chicks after a vicious storm: here.

When its recovery program started in 1998, conservationists were only able to locate 12 Tahiti Monarch Pomarea nigra individuals. We already know that invasive species are a huge problem for island birds, but on its home island of Tahiti, the Monarch was cursed with not one, but nine invasive menaces, all ranked among the 100 most invasive species on the planet. Against such staggering odds, some conservationists might have declared the beleaguered passerine a lost cause: with the population so low, and the predators so unmanageable, they might have argued that the cost of saving it was too high: here.

Endangered snails back in Tahiti


This video is called Endangered Snails Sent Home to Tahiti From Detroit Zoo.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Endangered snails sent home to Tahiti from Detroit zoo

Effort to restore a south Pacific species that became extinct in the wild have put it on ‘the road to being saved’, zoo says

Wednesday 27 May 2015 02.44 BST

A hundred endangered snails are on their way to Tahiti to restore a species that became extinct in the wild, the Detroit zoo said on Tuesday.

The zoo has been working for decades to preserve the tiny Partula nodosa snail, one of several species driven out of their native south Pacific habitat by efforts to control another invasive snail species that went awry.

In 1989 the Detroit zoo was sent 115 snails from five related species. The zoo asked other institutions to focus on four species and concentrated on breeding Partula nodosa.

At one time, the zoo had all the known Partula nodosa snails in the world.

“Our efforts and successful breeding of the snails resulted in the rescue and recovery of the species,” said Scott Carter, the zoo’s chief life sciences officer,. “Currently there are 6,000 individuals living in North American zoos, all descendants from the Detroit zoo’s original small group.”

The disappearance of the species and its cousins in the wild was a result of an effort at biological control of giant African land snails, which were introduced to Tahiti and other south Pacific islands in 1967 as a human food source. Some escaped, bred rapidly and began eating farmers’ crops.

To control the African snails, Florida rosy wolf snails were introduced about 10 years later, but the wolf snails instead developed a taste for the Partula nodosa and its cousins.

“With the sufficient growth of the captive population and the establishment of a protected area on Tahiti, this species is officially on the road to being saved,” Carter said.

Entangled humpback whale freed


This 2019 video is called Swimming With Giants – A Most INCREDIBLE Experience! || Humpback Whales in Tahiti.

Another video used to say about itself:

Exclusive Preview of Humpback Whales of Tahiti

18 February 2014

Along the majestic islands of French Polynesia, host Jeff Corwin explores one of the largest ocean sanctuaries on earth and comes face to face with a family of Humpback whales. Jeff investigates whale biology, conservation, and witnesses the special bond between a protective mother and her precocious calf. It’s a once in a lifetime adventure with some of our planet’s most awe-inspiring animals.

From Associated Press:

Crews free humpback whale tangled in fishing line off Hawaii

February 22 at 7:23 AM

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — Officials say a 45-ton humpback whale entangled with fishing line in Hawaii waters for more than a week is finally free.

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary said Saturday that its craft got within 10 feet of the mammal a day earlier and the crew used a pole equipped with a knife to saw the line free.

Ed Lyman of the sanctuary says several hundred feet of line was cut away.

West Hawaii Today reports that when the 45-foot-long whale swam free, all line but a small piece lodged in a wound was off. Lyman says that the fragment will fall away as the wound heals.

The entangled whale was first spotted Feb. 13 off the Big Island’s Kona Coast.

Experts say such entanglements could result in drowning, starvation, infections and increased susceptibility to ship strikes.

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.

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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Saving Tahiti seabirds


Tahiti petrel, thanks to Ian Hutton

From BirdLife:

SOP saving stranded seabirds

Fri, Jul 27, 2012

The Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie (SOP MANU – BirdLife in French Polynesia) has started a rescue program for grounded petrels and shearwaters attracted by lights on Tahiti.

Following awareness raising activities by SOP MANU, the number of grounded Near Threatened Tahiti Petrel has risen from 10 to over 100 birds per annum. “This is thought to be the tip off the ice-berg, with the number of seabirds being attracted to bright lights at night is likely to be much higher”, said Lucie Faulquier from SOP MANU.

As a result, a new rescue program has been launched on Tahiti this year …

“Posters, flyers and stickers have been designed and distributed, articles were published in the local newspapers, short documentaries were performed on the local television channels and radios, and presentations were given in schools”, added Lucie.

Some more similar actions are planned in the coming months. Furthermore, a network of ‘petrel rescuers’ (volunteers) is being established. Conferences and information meetings are organized to anyone who wants to learn more about the species and be trained to release them safely. Finally, before being released, the grounded birds are measured and banded, and some blood or feathers are taken for genetic analyses.

All the data collected from this program will be used to improve knowledge on this species and on the impact of lights.

“We’ve already released successfully 60 petrels and shearwaters this year, and the team is hopeful as it is only the very beginning of the fledgling season of Tahiti Petrel which lasts from July to October”, concluded Lucie.

In total, 51% of all threatened birds are being driven towards extinction by invasive alien species. The problem is especially acute on oceanic islands where 75% of threatened birds are affected. In an effort to address this serious threat, the Pacific Partnership of BirdLife International has received renewed support from the David & Lucile Packard Foundation to protect globally important seabird colonies by eradicating invasive alien species: here.

Green turtle conservation in Madagascar works


This video shows a green turtle, swimming near Tahiti.

From Wildlife Extra:

First hatching of Green turtles in southwest Madagascar as a direct result of conservation efforts

August 2008. The emergence of 92 live hatchlings marks the success of an awareness-raising campaign launched by Blue Ventures two years ago. This aims to find and protect turtle nests along a 50km stretch of coastline south of Morombe.

The hatching of Green Turtles in southwest Madagascar has been witnessed by marine conservationists working for British charity, Blue Ventures Conservation.

In a move unprecedented in southwest Madagascar, residents of the remote village of Lamboara have now voted to protect surrounding beaches, outlawing turtle nest raiding and targeted turtle fishing.

Education paying dividends

“The impact of a small amount of education on the lifecycle and biology of the turtle has been amazing,” says marine biologist Charlotte Gough, campaign co-ordinator. “People here understand their resources are being overexploited, and that they need to do something to preserve them for future generations. The residents themselves put forward the idea of protecting whole beaches during the nesting season.”

See also here.

Marine turtles in Kenya fitted with satnav systems: here.

Madagascar tortoises smuggled to Malaysia: here.

Tahiti fighting French colonialism


This video from New Zealand says about itself:

Tahiti president welcomes Maori support for independence

29 August 2012

Tahiti President Oscar Te Maru is calling for Maori support in his fight for Tahitian independence from France. Prime Minister John Key says the fight should be left between Tahiti and France.

From Green Left Weekly in Australia:

TAHITI: Temaru’s support for independence upsets Paris

Norm Dixon

Since Oscar Temaru was elected president of Tahiti Nui (French Polynesia) in June 2004, he has infuriated the Pacific country’s colonial masters in Paris.

The furore over Temaru’s July 28 leaking of a letter confirming that the French government has systematically covered up the link between its atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific and Tahiti’s high cancer rates is just the latest confrontation.

It is Temaru’s unstinting support for Tahiti’s eventual independence that has Paris searching for ways to defeat him.

The French government has refused to accept Temaru’s shock 2004 victory over the unquestioningly pro-French Gaston Flosse, which abruptly ended his 20-year reign.

However, Temaru’s new Union for Democracy (UPLD) coalition government, which included several parties that support “autonomy” rather than full independence, did not call for a break with Paris. Rather, it called for taui (change).

According to Pacific scholar Lorenz Gonschor, writing in the Spring 2006 edition of the Contemporary Pacific, taui “implied a new cultural orientation, away from the French influence and back to the country’s Maohi (indigenous Polynesian) roots, as well as toward a more pan-Pacific perspective”.

Thousands of workers in Tahiti and other parts of French Polynesia joined what was originally called an “indefinite” general strike on February 15 against the government’s plan to raise the pension entitlement age from 60 to 62 by the year 2020 and increase employee contributions. The proposal also requires workers to contribute to social security for 38 years, up from the current 35, to receive a full pension: here.