By Mike Britton, Wed, 28/10/2015 - 21:21
The decline of the Tahiti Monarch is being reversed by ongoing and intensive action by BirdLife French Polynesian partner Société d'Ornithologie de Polynésie (SOP MANU) and the local community. For the first time in many years the population has topped 50 birds with 17 pairs incubating 31 nests last summer and fledging 12 chicks. Small gains but with a species so close to extinction, this is a welcome outcome.
It is currently restricted to 4 lowland valleys where it is threatened by degradation of it habitat, black rats and the introduced Red-vented Bulbul and Common Myna which prey on eggs, chicks and compete for food and habitat. To add to their woes, Little Fire Ant is now spreading into the valleys.
Botanical pest Miconia calvescens, introduced in 1937, has replaced the high dense forest in one of its key habitats. This decline is likely to continue as the other forest habitat is largely composed of introduced invasive species, such as the African tulip tree Spathodea campanulata, and usually confined to a narrow strip along the floor of steep basalt canyons.
With all these threats the growing recognition by the local people of the icon status of Tahiti Monarch and their support for its conservation has been critical in reversing the population decline. They help to maintain 396 rat control stations and control and monitor mynas and bulbuls. More than 280 volunteers/day and 15 landowners/day went to remove Miconia, Triplaris and other invasive introduced plants during 27 one day fieldtrips in one year. Volunteers, land owners and children at the local school have grown 529 seedlings of ‘useful’ trees and shrubs for Tahiti Monarch.