Before the arrival of Europeans, you could see this bird from seashore to the deepest valley of Tahiti. Its population has now dramatically decreased and our ornithological society has been monitoring it since 1998. There are about 20 individuals living in the valleys of Tiapa, Papehue, Orofero and Maruapo. In 2002, 30 monarchs were also found in the high areas of Maruapo but their numbers shrunk over the years, lowering to only 12 individuals in 2009. However, the population size in that particular valley went up to 22 individuals in 2012 due to major conservation efforts.
Black rats are the main cause of the rapid decline of the monarch population as they prey on the nests and prevent the adults from mating.
Unfortunately, rats are not the only threat. Tahiti is full of introduced species that put either the breeding, the chicks or the adults in harm’s way. Invasive birds, plants, goats and the Little fire ant raise a very concerning issue the survival of the monarch.
Common myna and red-vented bulbul: invasive and aggressive species.
Since 1998, hundreds of rat-control stations have been set up throughout the areas sheltering monarchs. In 2009, our rat-control coverage doubled, including the higher Maruapo valley areas. We proceed through the use of traps and rodenticide.
Initiated in 2009, the first action was to scare away the invasive birds that were preying on the monarchs’ nests by shooting blanks, but it lacked efficiency. In 2012, a great help came from the Canary Islands. Susana Saavedra and her knowledge of invasive bird species allowed us to set up a network of traps for mynas and bulbuls in the coastal areas of the valleys. About 50 volunteers, as well as the Paea and Punaauia city halls, got involved. Within six months, about 2700 mynas and bulbuls were captured and removed from the nesting areas of the endangered Tahiti Monarch! One year later, a total of 5000 invasive birds were removed.
Even though the population declined between 2002 and 2012 (from 48 to 44 birds), there is hope. The number of birds leaving the nest has been increasing since 2009, going from 3 to 10 individuals per year. Within the past four years, 28 juveniles have left the nest, and 17 couples are now protected.
The Polynesian Ornithological Society wishes to thank the French Polynesian the Ministry of Environment (DIREN), the European Union, the Department of Vocational Training, Employment and Professional Integration, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, BirdLife International, the association Conservation des Espèces et Populations Animales (CEPA), the foundation Nature et Découverte and the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy of France ( via the National Strategy for Biodiversity ) for their financial support.
Special thanks to the local sponsors: E.D.T., O.P.T., A.T.N. magazine and Vini for backing us up again this year.
We want to express our gratitude to all the volunteers who came and helped on the field.
A special thanks to the NGO association Tamarii Pointe des Pêcheurs, the Manava supermarket, and the Paea and Punaauia districts for their fantastic help and support.
The team wouldn’t be the same without the precious help of the 2D attitude association that allowed Rainui, Mika and Bruno get onboard the project.
At last, we want to thank all the valleys owners who accepted our presence during the execution of the project.