Saving the Fatu Hiva Monarch in the Marquesas Islands
ORGANIZATION PRESENTATION - https://www.manu.pf/
The Ornithological Society of Polynesia "Manu" (SOP) was created in Tahiti in 1990. SOP Manu is characterized by a professional technical team comprising 7 employees, including 3 biologists and 3 technicians. Several service providers also contribute to the programs, particularly on the islands. The SOP implements avian biodiversity conservation programs throughout French Polynesia. It is the formal partner of BirdLife International and represents this organization in French Polynesia. Each program is focused as recommended by the BirdLife International strategy. Currently, the actions of the SOP concern different programs:
- study, monitoring and conservation of avian species including those in critical danger of extinction present in French Polynesia
- restoration of sites or entire islands
- education of school children, involvement of local communities and dissemination of knowledge
All programs are carried out with the involvement of local communities. Networks of volunteers also support the association's actions in Tahiti (trapping of introduced birds, habitat restoration, rescue of seabirds).
Among the 10 critically endangered birds in French Polynesia, Fatu Hiva Monarch is among the most threatened in the world with only 5 pairs in 2022 and could disappear at any time. The conservation program (https://www.manu.pf/pour-le-monarque-de-fatu-hiva/?lang=en) is complex due to the number of impacting and interacting Invasive Alien Species (IAS). Conservation program implemented over the past decade thanks to a tema of 3 locals regularly helped by 2 biologists on mission have prevented the extinction of this species, but they are not out of the woods yet! Two volunteers motivated to give their time and energy to help nature are needed for 1 year, to work on the protection of this species and based in the Marquesas at Fatu Hiva Island, with some breaks on Tahiti Island. Main activities are bird monitoring, automatic camera data monitoring, implement field protocols to fight avian malaria, data computing and work with the local team.
1. Monitoring populations and their reproductive success
Monitoring of all individuals is carried out regularly. During active breeding phases, at least one hour is spent on each territory in order to follow the activities of the birds, then to follow the chicks after fledging. This monitoring is essential to know the dynamics of the population and to establish the indicators of the project. Rat snap-traps are placed around active nests and if the nest is tilted, a tarp is placed at the bottom of the nest to prevent the chick from falling.
The monitoring of juvenile dispersal is possible thanks to a network of 60 automatic cameras placed on branches over 350 hectares around the monarchs' range. The volunteer will ensure the recovery of this data, the viewing of videos on the computer, the entry of data into an Excel file and the maintenance in the field of this device called "ARBCAM".
2. Fight against avian malaria
Avian malaria (Plasmodium relictum) is a blood parasite transmitted to birds by the bite of a mosquito. This new threat, responsible for the extinction of several endemic birds in Hawaii, was recently discovered on the island. It can be fatal to nesting chicks and fledged juveniles and could also affect adult survival. Mosquito traps are installed around active nests to reduce the density of these insects and increase the chick's chances of survival. Feeders regularly supplied with mealworms are also set up when the chick takes flight to strengthen it during the critical period before its emancipation.
3. Monitoring the abundance of introduced predators
A 600-hectare feral cat control area is in place in Fatu Hiva, managed by the local SOP staff. A network of 80 automatic cameras makes it possible to monitor the abundance index of feral cats by area and make it possible to identify the incursion of cats into the central zone hosting the monarchs. The purpose of this device is to prevent any predation of Fatu Hiva Monarch by this invasive predator. The volunteer will contribute to the follow-up of the cameras in this island. This monitoring includes data recovery, viewing of images on the computer and calculation of the monthly activity index.
Specificities concerning volunteering, IMPORTANT: Physically demanding terrain, very steep and technical. Valley with significant slope and difficult paths where you have to bend down, cross rivers and use ropes to climb paths quite often. Very humid environment (very slippery terrain) and with lots of mosquitoes. Followed in undergrowth with tropical vegetation, several hours of walking per day. A trip of 3-4 hours by boat is needed to reach the island. Very isolated environment, difficult living conditions with 600 inhabitants on the island, including 300 in the village of Omoa where volunteers will live. Island replenished by 2 boats every 2-3 weeks.
• Planning and monitoring of individuals, keeping on a field notebook for the collection of observation data
• Monitoring of the reproduction of the pairs, from the construction of the nests to the emancipation of the juveniles
• Protection of active nests: planning, installation and maintenance of rat traps, mosquito traps and feeders.
• Prospecting for new birds/sites
• Recording of locations by GPS
• Monitoring and maintenance of automatic cameras for cat and rat surveillance.
• Recovery of camera data, viewing and data entry on Excel files
• Entering data on the rat bait intake of bird's territories
• Accompaniment of tourists in the valley to observe the birds
• Help with other specific missions (sterilization of cats, capture of birds, etc.)
• Participation and animation of general communication: Instagram, Facebook…
VOLUNTEER CONDITIONS, ACCOMMODATION, FOOD AND TRANSPORT ARRANGEMENTS
This is a European Solidarity Corps opportunity (https://europa.eu/youth/solidarity/young-people/about_en). Is a full-time volunteer work (around 38 hours a week). Age limit is 18-30 years old and you must be from a UE country (France nationality not allowed because is an exchange program). Accomodation, transport and food are covered by the organisation. On Fatu Hiva, accomodation for the 2 volunteers is in a rented house in the village.
What is covered?
Thanks to European Solidarity Corps, you are covered by a complementary insurance. You can access a range of support services such as linguistic support and training. Your basic costs will be covered (your travel to and from the project, accommodation and food). You’ll also receive a small allowance for personal expenses (€3-6 a day, depending on the country). If you have specific needs (e.g. a disability), these costs may also be covered.
TRAINING DURING THE ACTIVITY
The first month on Fatu Hiva will be for training of the 2 volunteers, to know the sites, the tasks, the tools etc.
- Very good physical condition and motivation to save nature
- No degree required, but a background in biology/environmental science/ecology is appreciated
- Demanding field experience or experience in a tropical environment preferred
- Knowledge or taste for birds and/or biodiversity desired
- Fluency in French to be able to speak with locals
- Mastery of the usual computer tools and if possible, GIS tools (QGIS).
- Communication skills are an asset
- Ability to work in difficult climatic conditions (tropical environment, mosquitoes, rain...) and isolation on an island of 600 people
- Ability to adapt quickly
- Sense of organization and rigor
- Good interpersonal skills within a group
- Ability to work in a team
Application : Position to start as soon as possible, 1 volunteer already in Fatu Hiva, one position left. Send CV + cover letter with "CES Fatu Hiva 2023" as object to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.