In 2012, the Ministry of Environment (DIREN) implemented a study and preservation program concerning the Tahitian Petrel. Carried out as part of the « French Strategy for Biodiversity », this project focuses on the conservation of the natural habitats provided by the Temehani plateaus on Raiatea island.
The Tahiti Petrel is a marine bird assessed as Near Threatened (NT) according to the IUCN Red List, with a global population of 10 000 pairs in the pacific. This petrel belongs to the genus Pseudobulweria that gathers 4 other species, among which one is extinct and 3 are Critically Endangered. He is known to breed in 5 tropical islands in the Pacific ocean : New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, American Samoa and French Polynesia. Despite this broad geographical distribution, there is only a few biological datas available and a limited estimate of the local populations’ numbers due to a lack of identified nesting sites. The Tahiti Petrel nests in the mountains, a rugged terrain that shelters only a handfull of pairs at each location, making it hard to watch and study.
The Temehani rahi and Temehani ‘ute’ute plateaux of Raiatea island, located in the Society archipelago, may shelter the largest Tahitian Petrel population of French Polynesia.
The objectives and means employed are listed below:
- Improve our knowledge on the location of colonies : nests tracking by prospecting at day and listening method at night, in order to map the founded nesting areas;
- Improve our knowledge on the species : collecting biometrics and banding birds, monitoring the reproduction by checking the contents of the nests, studying the phylogenetical status through blood samplings sent for analysis to the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) laboratory in Chizé.
- collecting and analysing samples, mostly of cats, dogs or pigs feces, to help determine their diet and their impact on the petrel population. The analysis is operated by Eric Vidal’s research team at the French Research Institute for Development (IRD) center in Noumea, New-Caledonia;
- trapping rats using Victor traps to get abundance indexes.
- monitoring and maintaining the rats poisoning stations already in operation on the Temehani rahi plateau;
- setting up 6 wildcat-traps on the periphery of the petrel colony
- school-based interventions
- consultations with the landowners and local stakeholders ( Tuihana association )
- networking and informing the city halls