Rat removal for the benefit of endangered island-dwelling birds

Polynesian Ground-dove © Marie-Helene Burle

Invasive alien species negatively impact over one third of all threatened bird species, with island dwelling birds being especially vulnerable. Through a huge collaborative effort between BirdLife Partners, other NGOs, local community members, businesses and the French Polynesian government, the removal of rats from islands in the Acteon & Gambier archipelagos is hoped to be successful in improving conditions for native fauna such as the critically endangered Polynesian ground-dove.

Over one third (34%) of all threatened birds are impacted by invasive alien species (IAS), with island dwellers being particularly vulnerable; 75% of threatened species on oceanic islands are estimated to be impacted by invasive species such as cats, mice and snakes (Medina et al. 2011, Cuthbert & Hilton 2004, Wiles et al. 2002).

Remote islands in the Acteon & Gambier archipelagos provide habitat for eight globally Threatened and Near Threatened birds, two turtles and seventeen nationally threatened endemic plant species. The islands are however also home to an invasive alien rat and an invasive lantana plant. The Critically Endangered Polynesian ground-dove Alopecoenas erythropterus, Endangered Tuamotu Sandpiper Prosobonia parvirostris and Endangered Polynesian Storm-petrel Nesofregetta fuliginosa are particularly threatened by these IAS, making conservation action crucial to securing their future.

A huge collaborative effort between BirdLife International, Société d'Ornithologie de Polynésie (SOP Manu - BirdLife in French Polynesia) and Island Conservation aimed to provide this necessary conservation action, and has resulted in the removal of rats from six remote islands in the Acteon & Gambier archipelagos and the doubling of safe habitat for the Critically Endangered Polynesian ground dove. Further surveys in the next year will determine the success of the IAS removal.

The success of the project so far is owed to the collaborative nature of the operation and impressive logistical commitment of 31 personnel from three continents and six countries. Locals helped plan and support the implementation of the project, local organisations and businesses provided essential services and the French Polynesian government provided some essential funds.

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Cuthbert, R. J. and Hilton, G. (2004) Introduced House Mice Mus musculus: a significant predator of endangered and endemic birds on Gough Island, South Atlantic Ocean? Biol. Conserv. 117: 471–481.
Medina, F. M., Bonnaud, E., Vidal, E., Tershy, B. R., Zavaleta, E. S., Donlan, C. J., Keitt, B. S., Le Corre, M., Horwath, S. V. and, Nogale, M. (2011) A global review of the impacts of invasive cats on island endangered vertebrates. Glob. Change Biol. 17: 3503–3510.
Wiles, J. G., Bart, J., Beck, R. E. Jr. and Augon, C. F. (2002) Impacts of the brown tree snake: patterns of decline and species persistence in Guam’s avifauna. Conserv. Biol. 17: 1350–1360.

Compiled: 2015    Copyright: 2015   

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2015) Rat removal for the benefit of endangered island-dwelling birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/10/2023

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