The unique birds of Rapa – French Polynesia
Can we save the unique birds of Rapa ?
Rapa and its surrounding islets is a very remote place. It is far, very far from Tahiti, the main island in French Polynesia. This isolation has resulted in the evolution of a highly unique flora and fauna with an extraordinarily high endemism.
Read the full article on the BirdLife International website :
By Steve Cranwell, 13 Oct 2016
More about Rapa and its islets
The Tuha’a Pae, or Austral Islands (French: Îles Australes or Archipel des Australes), are the southernmost group of islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the Southe Pacific.
To know more about Rapa and its islets Marotiri, click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austral_Islands
KBAs and IBAs
First of all, Rapa island is a KBA and an IBA. What does it mean?
- Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) are sites that contribute to the global persistence of biodiversity, including vital habitat for threatened plant and animal species in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems
- Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are KBAs identified for birds using internationally agreed criteria applied locally by BirdLife Partners and experts
If you want to learn more about KBAs and IBAs (Key Biodiversity Areas and Important Birds and Biodiversity Areas), click here: http://www.birdlife.org/worldwide/programmes/sites-habitats-ibas-and-kbas
Although far away from Tahiti, Rapa island and its islets are also an IBA in Danger!
IBAs in Danger
“An increasing number of IBAs are under threat from damaging development. The majority of which appears to be poorly planned and does not take environmental values into account. The IBAs in Danger initiative provides an essential focus for governments, development agencies, business and wider civil society. Why? To act to prevent the further damage or loss of these sites crucial to the survival of the world’s birds.”
Let’s have a glance on the French Polynesia IBA profile.
You will find the Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) in Danger in French Polynesia here.
Birds of Rapa
Rapa and the nearby Marotiri islets are the most important islands for seabirds in the Australs with the highest diversity for the archipelago, but also the greatest level of (sub-specific) endemism.
Who are they ?
- The Rapa shearwater (Puffinus -newelli or auricularis- myrtae) has recently been recognised as more closely related to the Endangered Newell’s Shearwater which occurs in Hawaii. Rapa then constitutes an extremely distant population.
- Fregetta grallaria titan is the local form of White-bellied Storm Petrel. It is also considered to have sub-specific differences due to its larger body size and distinct characteristics including vocalisations.
- The Endangered Polynesian Storm Petrel (Nesofregetta fuliginosa) is also present and numbers then seem perilously low. But there’s been no thorough seabird survey of Rapa for over 25 years. With the consistent effects of introduced rodents and feral cats, goats, rabbits, cattle and horses these populations will have continued to decline.
- The endemic and Endangered Rapa Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus huttoni) is restricted to an estimated 10 forest remnants approximating 10ha each. Again feral populations of domestic stock particularly goats and cattle threaten the little habitat that remains. Introduced rodents and feral cats compound these impacts through predation.