Testing conservation and habitat restoration methods to preserve Rapa’s endemic avifauna

Adara Tehani Savita Withers

The island of Rapa is a place of extraordinary biodiversity that includes the Critically Endangered Koko, the only fruit-dove of the Austral Archipelago (French Polynesia). Its off-shore uninhabited islets are also an essential reproductive site for many rare endemic seabirds, such as the Kakikaki Rapa shearwater and the Koru’e white-bellied storm-petrel. Over the last twenty years, the number of Koko has been declining due to habitat loss caused by invasive strawberry guava and Caribbean pine within the native forest, and the erosion by wild ungulates. Off-shore islands are also affected by invasive rats and plants. Whilst Rapa remains free from many other invasive species, the risk of invasion is high and needs to be avoided at all costs. This project seeks to improve the conservation of this unique ecosystem by: protecting 2-3 key endemic forest areas by establishing invasive species control and re-foresting these sites with indigenous plants; clearing invasive plant species on two off-shore sites and testing other conservation methods (i.e., artificial nest-boxes for burrowing seabirds) to improve breeding success of rare seabirds; and finally involving the local community by organizing public meetings, biosecurity workshops and school outings, thus providing the inhabitants with various tools and methods to help them protect their terrestrial environment in the long-term.

Watch the project video here: