BirdLife: The Magazine Apr-Jun 2018 - Page 38

Clones vs drones Pounced on by rats, attacked by myna birds and devoured by killer clone ants: it sounds like a horror film, but this year the Tahiti Monarch of French Polynesia has reached record numbers. It's thanks to incredible efforts on the ground, and some surprising new tech By Jessica Law hen its recovery program started in 1998, conservationists were only able to locate 12 Tahiti Monarchs Pomarea nigra anywhere on the Pacific island. We already know that invasive species are a huge problem for island birds, but on its home of Tahiti, the Monarch was cursed with not one, but nine invasive menaces – each of which is 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 W 38 the population so low, and the predators so unmanageable, they might have argued that the cost of saving it was too high. But luckily, Tahiti didn’t desert this beautiful and treasured bird. This story is one of hope and triumph, with the heroic Tahiti Monarch snatching victory from the (sometimes literal) jaws of defeat. Immature Tahiti Monarch Pomarea nigra Photo Caroline Blanvillain 0 First, to understand the scale of the achievement, we need to see the opponents the Monarchs had to contend with. Black Rats Rattus rattus scuttled up from the ground to birdlife • APR-JUN 2018