26 Jun 2015

Operation Restoration - island update #4 - Endangered birds found, and sharks

Operation Restoration - island update #4 - "We found the remote atoll!" Photo: Steve Cranwell, BirdLife International
Operation Restoration - island update #4 - "We found the remote atoll!" Photo: Steve Cranwell, BirdLife International
By Shaun Hurrell

The Critically Endangered Polynesian Ground-dove is one of the world’s rarest birds. Named Tutururu by locals, there are only about 100 of these birds left in the world - all found in French Polynesia.

So finding them in good numbers on an invasive predator-free atoll was pretty exciting for our Operation Restoration team - who are working hard to save these birds (and many more native species) from extinction, and restore the natural ecological balance of the islands. It gives a very positive indicator of how these birds will bounce back after we have finished restoring their islands. But these birds still need your help.

With a huge amount of work still to do to restore 6 remote islands in the Acteon and Gambier archipelagos, this would have undoubtedly been a big morale boost for Steve Cranwell and the team, especially when faced with sharks snapping at their heels!

Find out more in the latest update below from Steve Cranwell, Project Leader and invasive species expert:

Steve reports via satelite phone 19th June

Steve Cranwell (centre) with project team members and community members getting excited for the project. Photo: Island ConservationSorry for the delay in communications – the magnitude of the practical reality of this operation set in, and we have been extremely busy fulfilling the myriad of tasks for this ambitious restoration effort! Amazingly (given all that could go wrong) we’re on track.

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The ground team and helicopter crew, assisted by locals at each site, soon developed a slick and efficient operation for loading, whilst managing to keep loose bags and other paraphernalia potentially catastrophic to the helicopter in check…

This ground effort and precision flying meant that by the time we got to Vahanga and Tenania we were able to complete the operations there in half the time anticipated!

Some of the team spent the first week or so searching for Tutururu [local name for Polynesian Ground-dove] and Titi [local name for Tuamotu Sandpiper] on Vahanga. Despite being elusive, the efforts were rewarded with one male (named Charlie) and female Tutururu, and four Titi.

One of only about 100 Polynesian Ground-dove (or <i>Tutururu</i>) left in the world. Photo: Island ConservationSome other team members have stayed on Tenararo to complete a census of Tutururu and Titi. This is the first time such a thorough assessment will have been made for this predator-free atoll. Initial reports indicate good numbers of both species. 

When a lagoon channel crosses a monitoring transect, as it invariably does,  there is a little adventure as overly attentive Blacktip reef sharks make a beeline for any submerged body part! Alertness and a stout stick has proved a sufficient deterrent (so far)…

On Temoe, a seabird census and vegetation survey was completed and a significant increase in Murphy’s petrel (several hundred to over one thousand!) was noted, from a similar survey made several years earlier.

Baseline surveys are being made for all sites which are being augmented with acoustic recorders as a means of tracking changes in the number of calls for species of interest.

More to follow shortly!

On behalf of us all,


This project's success depends on you! Many of you, our supporters, have already stepped forward to help us, but more needs to be done. 

Please visit to show Steve, the team, Polynesian Ground-dove and nature your support for this incredibly important operation. 


  • Read more of our Operation Restoration updates here.
  • Island Conservation is also providing regular project updates, read more here.

BirdLife International, with SOP Manu (BirdLife Partner in French Polynesia) and Island Conservation, is leading an extensive island restoration operation in a remote area of French Polynesia to save Critically Endangered birds species and restore the delicate ecological balance. Our ambitious project is restoring the Acteon & Gambier archipelagos to their former glory, safe and ready for the reintroduction of Tuamotu Sandpiper and Polynesian Ground-dove, and benefiting many other wildlife.

By sharing transport, equipment and expertise, we’ve significantly reduced the cost of restoring all six islands that are threatened, but is nonetheless our biggest project of the decade.

Additional technical assistance has come from the Pacific Invasives Initiative and the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

This project has received support from many international and national organisations with significant funding from the European Union, the British Birdwatching Fair, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund; sponsorships from Bell Laboratories and T-Gear Trust Canada; and assistance from the Government of French Polynesia and many individual people around the world.

But crucially we still need your help! Please support us at

Feedback from our supporters:

“Let's work together to maintain biodiversity and contain damage done by human expansion.”

“Great project, worth supporting! Hope you meet your goal.”

“Take care, all involved with this operation.”

“My grandchildren will probably never visit these Polynesian islands, but that's not the point. Others will visit, and hopefully see birds which these donations have helped save.”

“great project . hope you'll succeed”

“Great, great cause. Hope you get to 100% soon”

“Massively important project”

“Just such a worthwhile project.”

“Make it beautiful.”

“Good luck with this urgent and essential work.”

“Great work guys - I wish I could join you”

“Thanks for doing this.”

“Make those islands paradise again! Some mistakes are reversible, we have to take responsibility.”

“These are amazing destinations that I shall never visit. But just to know that they stand a good chance to flourish well for wildlife is enough. Good luck with the venture.”

“I wish you success on every level of this very important initiative.”

“Glad you are there”

“Fingers crossed this eradication is successful”

“Best of luck! Great to see so many eradications happening globally.”

“i'm happy to be part of this achievment. good luck.”

“This is for a good purpose.”

“A worthy cause. Good luck.”

“Good luck with rehabilitating these island "arks"”

“You can have my Christmas present money - no-one I know is in need of more stuff. Good luck with your incredible efforts.”

“Good luck in achieving here what has been done successfully on other islands”