The Fatu Hiva Monarch a.k.a. ’Oma’o ke’eke’e (Pomarea whitneyi) is endemic to the island of Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas and is listed as critically endangered (CR) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

Recent surveys counted less than 50 monarchs remaining on the island. In 2006 the size of this population was 275 birds and thousands in the eighties. The rapid decrease was alarming, but it has slowed down for the past years.

However, there is hope. Between 2008 and 2017, some juveniles left the nest and have colonized the protected areas. Juveniles are easily identifiable by their white to brown feathers; the adults are entirely black. Thus, 6 young Monarchs were observed regularly in 2017, unheard of since 2008!

A huge thank you to all the sponsors, institutional partners and individuals, without whom this bird would have already disappeared from the planet!

A specie on the break of extinction

In late eighties, black rats (Rattus rattus) colonized Fatu Hiva island as stowaways in cargos. Rats were responsible for the rapid decline of the Fatu Hiva Monarch’s population as they climbed trees and destroyed the nests. Present in very high density, these rats impacted the bird population by preventing their reproduction, leading to an aging of the adults and a lack of juveniles.

Feral cats were another threat. At the beginning of the conservation programme in 2008, 10 % of birds were spotted tailless. The lack of feathers on the tails is characteristic of cat predation. To escape predators, birds give up their feathers.

The conservation program

The French Polynesian Ornithological Society (Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie SOP) is leading a conservation program since 2008. It involves actions like the protection of nesting sites from predators, the neutering of female cats, the monitoring of the population and its breeding, as well as raising the local population’s awareness and sustainable development with landowners.

Main results have been:

  • an increase in the Monarch’s population by 26 individuals within 8 years
  • efficient rat control carried out by our local team
  • cat control ensured by Arthur Matohi, our local technician on Fatu Hiva
  • free neutering of domestic female cats
  • banded Monarchs
Recent surveys have shown that fewer than 50 monarchs remain, while the 2006 estimate was 275 individuals.

The situation remains delicate

These results are all good news for the Fatu Hiva Monarch. However, its situation is still critical with only 4 fertile couples in 2017 for the whole species.
A lot needs to be set up, swiftly. Hiring a technician native to Fatu Hiva to closely monitor the monarch population has been a major step. The program also benefits from the involvement of landowners. However, there is still a great need for fundings in order to carry on and avoid the extinction of the Fatu Hiva Monarch.