|The Tropical biodiversity of the EU : EU LIFE+ funding to save the Réunion cuckoo-shrike
In 2007, the European Commission finally made the French overseas départements eligibile for its LIFE+ biodiversity budget line – in response to several years of advocating the importance of biodiversity in these European tropical islands by BirdLife Europe, LPO/BirdLife France and other environmental NGOs.
These outermost regions are integral parts of the EU, but not covered by the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. However, they are home to endemic, and globally threatened species e.g. the Réunion cuckoo-shrike, endemic and critically endangered with only 25-30 pairs left in the world.
To fund adequately conservation work in these parts of Europe continues to be a major issue. LIFE+ has provided 50% of the budget for a project, but the other 50% still remains hard to find in France. With 15 years of experience on LIFE projects, the LPO/BirdLife France set up a LIFE+ program, LIFE+ CAP DOM, in three overseas departments in cooperation with the local ornithological NGOs, Martinique (AOMA), and French Guiana (GEPOG), Réunion Island (SEOR) and the Reunion Island National Park. This is providing substantial funds to help save species like the Reunion cuckoo-shrike (Tuit-tuit in creole).
Biodiversity abounds in these tropical islands, but so do alien invasive species like rats, which is the number one predator of female Tuit-tuit incubating at night in trees. The LIFE CAP DOM enabled all stakeholders to discuss which methods of rat eradication should be used, e.g. improved manual or helicopter distribution. It was agreed that the area controlled for rats needs to be increased in order to protect more pairs of the species, thus reaching in the long term a viable population of 125 pairs. In November 2011, the LIFE+ steering committee validated a rat control plan for the area called La Roche Ecrite. The new method is manual but more cost effective, hanging bait down the tree trunks, maintaining a double belt, around the principal breeding area, on which poison is regularly deposited, together with dispersal by projection to 30-60m away. The objective is to keep rats at low densities on 630ha, and eradicate rats on the core breeding area of 250 ha. The circumference of this latter zone will act as a protective belt, where the present of poisoned baits will be maintained permanently all year round..This manual method reduces possible risks to human; the area is used by tourists, who will also be encouraged to take their litter home. The work started in April 2012. It is hoped by 2015, there will be 45 pairs of Reunion Cuckoo-Shrike. If successful, the method will be extended to 1200ha after the LIFE project.
Without the LIFE+ funding (50%), and other co-funding from organisations like the French Ministry of Environment (25%), this action could not have taken place, and in time another species would have gone extinct.
The need now is to increase the co-funding for LIFE projects to at least 75%, and to extend it to overseas territories of the EU (France, Great Britain, The Netherlands, and Denmark). Europe has a real responsibility in these tropical islands.
LPO (BirdLife prartner in France)
Anne-France Touveron, anne-france.touveron(at)lpo.fr
LPO’s LIFE+ partner SEOR, Réunion Island, fouillotd(at)seor.fr