PROTECT UA HUKA, Development of the Ua Huka biodiversity protection program
Association Vaiku’a i te manu o Ua Huka
Amount of funding:
Local NGO and community network
Type of NbS:
Management / Protection of terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems - Restoration / Rehabilitation of terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems
Water resource availability and quality - Socio-economic resilience - Reduction of invasive alien species - Biodiversity conservation
The island of Ua Huka is home to 2 endemic bird species listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. This island is one of the two islands that are free from black rat, the main predatory threat to biodiversity. The two endemic birds survive there thanks to the absence of this black rat. To achieve this, the project will firstly acquire a rat detector dog and strengthen the biosecurity team in order to monitor the threat of black rat introduction, particularly via maritime arrivals.
Secondly, as the island can experience extreme droughts, wild fires in early 2021 decimated more than 30 hectares of natural forests, that were home to the endemic birds. Thus, the association, with the participation of the Kiwa initiative and the OFB, aims to restore 4 hectares of forest with native and endemic plant species, to form a suitable natural habitat for these birds.
The acquisition of a rat detection dog will strengthen the existing biosecurity team. This will improve biosecurity and minimise the risk of introduction of the black rat (Rattus rattus). The biosecurity efforts not only benefit the avifauna, but also help to safeguard the copra crop, the island's main economic resource. Indeed, it has been estimated by experts that the arrival of Rattus rattus on the island would reduce harvests by 50 to 70%, particularly in view of the severe droughts happening in Ua Huka. These efforts also help to protect agricultural crops and the health of the island's inhabitants. Therefore, the biosecurity team consists of a dog handler, a biosecurity officer and 2 biosecurity dogs, who work on the quayside to inspect cargo arriving by sea. Poison is regularly placed around the island's entry points to minimise the risk of introduction. In addition, rat traps are placed throughout the island to monitor the presence of the black rat. Daily training sessions are held to maintain the dogs' motivation and readiness to provide effective inspections.
The restoration program aims to restore the natural habitat of the local avifauna by planting approximately 2,500 native and endemic species selected for their contribution to the requirements of the birds (nests, food), their resistance to drought, their use of groundwater, their ability to stabilise the soil (to avoid landslides) and their low flammability. Indeed, Ua Huka is strongly impacted by climate change, and suffers from extreme droughts that kill trees and restrict regrowth. Similarly, the many roaming herbivores also prevent natural regrowth. These two factors represent the main causes of the reduction of the island's natural forests, which directly impacts water resources. This project provides a means, at a small scale, to combat climate change, while at the same time alerting the local leadership and populations to the catastrophic climate situation and the need to act.
The objective of the project?
- Objective 1: Prevent the introduction of invasive alien species, particularly the black rat.
- Objective 2: Contribute to the restoration of natural forests.
- Objective 3: Raise public awareness.
Reduction of gender discriminations
This project reduces gender inequalities, and also improves access to jobs and training. Half of the project team members are women, and local employment is favoured. The participants are originally from the island and are currently unemployed. This project and others led by the association offer several training courses addressing environmental issues.