30 Dec 2015

2015 saw some important successes in the Pacific battle for birds and nature

There are less than 150 Critically Endangered Polynesian Ground-dove remaining in the world. This project has more than doubled the safe habitat available for them. Photo: © Marie-Helene Burle
There are less than 150 Critically Endangered Polynesian Ground-dove remaining in the world. Now they have more than double the safe habitat available for them. Photo: © Marie-Helene Burle
By Mike Britton

BirdLife and its Pacific partners are proud of the successes of 2015.  Biggest was the operation to restore 6 islands in French Polynesia.  This was to create much-needed safe habitat for the resident and Critically Endangered Polynesian Ground-dove, Endangered Tuamotu Sandpiper Prosobonia parvirostris (Titi) and Endangered Polynesian Storm-petrel Nesofregetta fuliginosa, as well as a number of Critically Endangered plant species.  In total these islands provide habitat for eight globally threatened and near threatened birds (5 of which are seabirds), two turtle and seventeen nationally threatened endemic plant species. Over twenty seabird species breed on these islands represent almost all that occur in French Polynesia. Predator free these islands also provide sanctuaries into which other critically endangered species can be reintroduced, or will self-reintroduce. 

Other successes in French Polynesia include getting the numbers of Tahiti Monarch over 50 and establishing biosecurity measures to protect three of the most beautiful and rare lorikeets in the world; the endangered Ultramarine and Rimatara Lorikeets and the vulnerable Blue Lorikeet. 

Marine protection has been a priority and a success for our partners in Palau, New Zealand and Cook Islands.  In Palau a new marine sanctuary will be the sixth biggest in the world.  Forest & Bird in New Zealand was key in achieving a marine sanctuary in the Kermadec region of the South Pacific Ocean about 1000 kilometres northeast of New Zealand.   At 620,000 square kilometres the sanctuary will mean 15 percent of New Zealand’s ocean environment will be fully protected.

In the Cook Islands the Ridge to Reef project is set to enhance the Cook Island’s capacities to effectively manage its protected area estate and sustainably manage its productive landscapes at local scales. The project will support the Cook Islands in maintaining traditional resource management and conservation systems. This programme will span from 2015-2019 and the funds for the project total just over $US 4 million in external funding expected.   The BirdLife partner, Te Ipukarea Society (IPS) is hoping to be involved in the project in the project through developing an awareness campaign and is also a member of the steering committee for the project.

IPS also celebrated over 2 years with no sign of rats on Suwarrow Atoll following the operation to eradicate them  Rats were threatening  a major sea bird hotspot which is home for 9% of the world’s population of Lesser Frigatebird, 3 % of the world’s Red-Tailed Tropicbird and a staggering 100,000 Sooty Tern.  Two years free of rats gives real hope to this unique sanctuary.

In New Caledonia the BirdLife Partner,  Société Calédonienne d’Ornithologie (SCO), celebrated its 50th birthday.  It continued is programme to protect the Kagu, a national icon of the country.  Working with forest communities is an important role and forming an organised group in Massif des Lèvres forest enables the community to successfully hunting the pigs that are so damaging to their crops and providing an alternative livelihood through the local processing of game. The availability of improved hunting techniques meant the use of fire was no longer used protecting the forest and wildlife.

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In Fiji BirdLife partner, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti (NFMV), is a key voice for nature and its Nature & Wildlife clubs, in association with schools spreads the message to the increasingly urbanised children of this important biodiversity hotspot. 

BirdLide Australia has had a big year facing a wide range of challenges that are getting more pressing as the impact of climate change starts to impact on nature.  Shorebirds and beach nesting birds are a big priority where BirdLife is awakening the community to the decline in these iconic species.

In 2015 the BirdLife Pacific Secretariat also worked with local conservation organisations in Vanauatu and the Solomon Island's to help them with their nature protection projects.

The importance of partnership was really to the fore in 2015 - and it will be for 2016 and for the future of nature conservation in the Pacific.  BirdLife itself is a partnership and the combined efforts, both in-country and in the region of partners working with communities is a key to the successes of 2015.  And the wider partnerships.  BirdLife Pacific has a special relationship with Island Conservation and their support with the Acteon & Gambier operation was a big part of its success.  The Pacific Invasives Partnership (PIP) is another key partner along with IUCN, SPREP, and all the other Government and other agencies working to protect nature in the Pacific.

 Resources and capacity is always an issue and it seems to get harder as the challenges grow, not only in the Pacific but worldwide.  Many of the Pacific communities are `money poor’ and the Pacific partners often struggle to maintain their capacity and keep their staff employed.

Even though the Pacific has more threatened bird species per unit of land area, or per person, than any other region in the world and is home to around a quarter of the world's globally threatened bird species, to many it is at the end of the world and off their awareness radar.  So supporters and sponsors are urgently needed.   Helping us in 2015 were some great supporters without whom many of our birds would face certain extinction.  These include the European Union, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the British Birdwatching Fair, the Global Green Grants Fund; Bell Laboratories and Tomcat; The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund;  Pacific Development and Conservation Trust; T-Gear Trust Canada; CEPF, the Jensen Foundation, the Prince Bernhard Nature Fund and NZAid.