Two dogs to conquer the heart of the Polynesians!
Dora, a trained and qualified rat detector dog, has landed on Ua Huka to protect the island and her endemic birds!
Ua Huka is the last inhabited island of the Marquesas still free from black rat. The arrival of the latter would mean the extinction of pihiti or Ultramarine Lorikeet and pati’oti’o or Iphis Monarch, two endemic species found only on this island.
To protect this island permanently, a biosecurity plan has been established in 2013 in accordance with the Public and the French Polynesian authorities. Dogs have been specially trained for this with an internationally recognized trainer, Guus Knopers.
Dora and Whiskey, the two dogs trained by Guus came together on Ua Huka on August 23rd, 2015. Their cargo trip went well and they were, like in Faaa airport, again greeted with a traditional Polynesian welcome ceremony!
The intrepid Dora is to remain on Ua Huka!
Dora’s constant desire to find rats convinced the guardians of the island she will be very effective in case of arrival of the black rat in a package.
She was taken over by a strong team: Hinapootu Sulpice who may be replaced by her father, Robert Sulpice or by Franck Borel because all three have been trained to work with a rat detector dog.
Te team, in front of Dora’s home which was just built a few days ago
A very busy schedule
Florida Brown, the president of the Association Vai ku’a i te manu o Ua Huka, the municipality, the Department of Rural Development and the Public Work Department are working together since the beginning of the operation and schools are taking a part in this task as well!
Panels were inaugurated on the docks and airport. They include drawings of winners of the competition organized last June with the school teacher of the island, Ken Taaviri.
The children who won the drawing contest
Tuesday, August 25. the Biosafety panel was opened at the airport with fifteen excited users and Dora gave a demonstration of her talents by finding a rat which was hidden in a tree by her trainer, Guus Knopers.
Friday, August28th in the morning, the children from Vaipape’s school gathered on the docks to inaugurate the Panel, attend a safety conference concerning the chemicals rat traps that have been set-up and witness Dora’s skills in catching rats.
Sunday, August 30 at 10 am, the people of Hane and Hokatu were invited to a performance of biosecurity dogs. About thirty of them (especially children) were present.
Is there a rat?
Monday, August 31 in the morning, the school and Youth Centre of Hane inaugurated the panel on the docks and attended a demonstration of Dora and Hinapootu her keeper.
Caroline Blanvillain explaining the project
Pupils of medium and small sections of Hane School. So cute, as the dogs are!
And every day, trainings, rewards, and of course many hugs!
Reward after a hard training!
First official releases
The busy agenda continues on the island: this Sunday, September 6, it was the arrival of the Aranui on the banks of Vaipaee and the first official work of Dora on the island!
Sunday, September 13, Hina Pootu Sulpice will present Dora’s talents to the people of Hane just after Mass and on Sunday, September 20, the inhabitans of Hokatu will have the pleasure to see the same demonstration, led by Florida Brown, president of the Vai Association ku’a i te manu o Ua Huka. The latter will resume the work of the SOP on the island via the local association created specifically to find the necessary XPF 650,000 per year for the bio-safety of the island.
What do these 650,000 XPF per year represents compared with the destruction caused by the black rats on the islands? (50% of the average copra harvest per year – a loss of 14 million a year for copra farmers Ua Huka!), Loss of birds, heritage of humanity that are pihiti and pati ‘oti’o and the loss of a human life?
For the record
One of the classes of Hane decided to join the Vaiku’a i te manu Ua Huka association this year and will therefore make 20 more members in this young association, which already has 11, all involved in the protection of natural heritage of the island.
The whole team of Vaiku’a i te manu Ua Huka Association! Hourray kids!
This very positive mission, helped to raise awareness and make biosecurity dogs mascots of the island! Let’s wish good luck on their task!
The team then went to Rimatara to present Wisky to his new extended family on the island.
Goodbyes are difficult between this adorable pooch and friends of Ua Huka …
The SOP would like to thank all the funders of this program: the French State, the DIREN, the Commons Rimatara and Ua Huka, BirdLife International through the Foundation Prince Bernhard Nature Fund, Pacific Invasives Initiative, the fund Te Me UM and two local sponsors, Air Tahiti et Vini.
Photos by Caroline Blanvillain and Florida Brown