BirdLife: The Magazine Apr-Jun 2018 - Page 40

PREVENTING EXTINCTIONS We stayed at the entrance, at our own peril". But it’s not just fire ants that are feeling the burn. Myna birds have been eliminated from the Tahiti Monarch’s range thanks to four years of trapping by volunteers, and rats are now under strict control. Hundreds of gardeners are waging war against the invasive vegetation to improve Monarch habitats. could provide important new ammunition against Little Fire Ant invasions across the whole Pacific. Tahiti Monarch Photo Caroline Blanvillain 0 The drone on land Photo Alice Bousseyroux 1 Before the use of drones, SOP Manu staff were forced to abseil down sheer precipices in their attempts to eradicate the ants. Te Maru Ata valley, with its vertical and inaccessible cliff faces, is a particular stronghold of the Tahiti Monarch due to its inaccessibility to rats. SOP Manu Conservation Projects Manager Caroline Blanvillain gives her account of the hair-raising experience: “For our field work in Te Maru Ata, we were obliged to climb five waterfalls of 10-20 meters. First you’re afraid: you can feel the adrenaline coursing through your veins. Then you become an addict: you’re looking for the adrenaline! "But the cliffs in Te Maru Ata are nothing compared to the waterfall at the valley bottom, which is 300 meters high! As goats may be dislodging rocks onto you from above, it is too dangerous to go through the entire cliff. 40 As a result, the Tahiti Monarch is truly back from the dead, reproducing rapidly and ready to colonise new areas. It’s had its ups and downs, with five young disappearing last year under mysterious circumstances. But during the last breeding season, a record 21 fledglings were produced, and at the beginning of 2017 around 70 adults were spotted in Tahiti valleys. This is a fantastic achievement, given that until recently, the entire population was only producing two to seven chicks a year. Since the number of breeding pairs is only 14, for the moment the species remains listed as Critically Endangered. But the Tahiti Monarch is a fighter, and the end of the tunnel is not far off for this species – even if its survival on Tahiti will require long-term conservation action. To secure the Tahiti Monarch’s safety in the long term, SOP Manu plans to establish the species on an island free from introduced predators. Great care needs to be taken in selecting a suitable location, and ensuring that the Monarch population on Tahiti is large enough to source the birds from. The hope is that eco-tourism will also help to sustain the protection of the Tahiti Monarch’s population, spreading their incredible story even further. This work has been brought to you by the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme. *Pest control was funded by the European Union voluntary scheme for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in EU Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories (BEST 2.0), DIREN (Environment Directorate of [the French Overseas Territory of] French Polynesia) and DRRT (Regional Delegation for Research and Technology), BirdLife International, Local sponsors (Punaauia District, EDT, OPT, YUNE TUNE and Vini) and eight anonymous donors who adopted a bird. birdlife birdlife • • Jan-Mar APR-JUN 2018