Home Protecting the Tahiti monarch

Protecting the Tahiti monarch

T
he Tahiti Monarch or ‘Omama’o (Pomarea nigra), endemic to Tahiti, is listed as critically endangered.
In 1998, there were only 12 birds left on the island. Manu therefore organized its rescue through restless actions aiming at protecting the few nests against rats and other predators.
As of now, the count is up to 46 adult birds, including 17 pairs of which 11 were breeding in 2014.

ONE OF THE MOST ENDANGERED BIRDS IN THE WORLD

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.

ADOPT A BIRD

The Tahitian Monarch, a flycatcher, is critically endangered.
The Polynesian Ornithological Society (SOP-Manu) calls for your sponsorship.
Each monitored banded bird needs a sponsor who will receive information about his godchild. The sponsors will get updates after every field trip to Fatu Hiva.

If you wish to help the Fatu Hiva Monarch, please contact Tom:

by email: tghestemme@manu.pf

or by phone: +689 52 11 00


INVASIVE SPECIES


Common myna and red-vented bulbul: invasive and aggressive species.

RAT CONTROL, A TOP PRIORITY


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.


LIMITING THE OVERGROWTH OF INTRODUCED BIRDS POPULATIONS

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.


United to save the Tahiti Monarch


MONITORING AND BANDING OF THE TAHITI MONARCH

Every year, the individuals are identified, banded and the nests are monitored.
This fieldwork turns out to be quite challenging beyond the five waterfalls (10 to 20m high) blocking the entrance of the higher Maruapo.


MARUAPO WATERFALLS AHEAD!


UPROOTING OF MICONIAS

Uprooting of miconias and African tulip trees, rehabilitating the ‘Omama’o’s habitat.
Several campaigns involving volunteers were undertaken to eradicate these invasive plants from the valleys. The miconia is either uprooted or cut. A large glade has been created amongst the African tulip tree forest to start a nursery of indigenous trees.


CHILDREN COMING TO THE RESCUE

Elementary schools of Papehue, Manotahi, 2+2 = 4 and Tiapa decided to help saving the Tahitian Monarch.
Over two years, more than 800 children have attended presentations on the Monarch.
400 scholarship went on field trips in the valley to observe the bird.
Several classes started nurseries of indigenous trees. They compete yearly to produce the best set of indigenous plants useful for nesting Monarchs.
Mara (Nauclea forsteri Seem.), Faifai (Serianthes myriadenia), and Hitoa (Ixora setchellii) are names of trees that have been forgotten through generations; children are now growing them. Children are recovering the ownership of their natural heritage, their environment and their culture.
We organised a drawing and poetry contest to create the information signs at the entrance of the valleys.


COMMUNITY-BASED ACTION GROUP

One way to raise people’s awareness on preserving the Tahiti Monarch is through the creation of strong community-based action groups. Invasive bird network is a prime example of a successful involvement of the population. Other significant actions were led such as building goat’s enclosure and plant nurseries, or receiving training in beekeeping. An exchange trip with the Takitumu Conservation Area of Rarotonga allowed the landowners of valleys in Tahiti to see and learn from what their Rarotongan cousins did to save the Rarotonga Monarch.


THE RESULTS

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.


SPONSORS AND PARTNERS

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.

SUPPORTS AND ENCOURAGEMENTS

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.