As we begin 2019, all of us here at the Tetiaroa Society want to thank you for your continued interest, support and financial contributions in 2018 - you have made a real difference!
Because of your generous donations (and the hard work of visiting scientists and local volunteers), we have restored Motu Reiono as a bird habitat through eradication of invasive rats, and we have established an educational program for local schoolchildren where community elders teach Polynesian culture and students learn the importance of sustainability and can see and be inspired by practical applications of cutting edge sustainability practices at The Brando.
2019 is expected to be an even more productive year as we work to both address local issues and strive to be a catalyst in the effort to safeguard and more sustainably use our oceans.
Thanks so much for your encouragement and continuing support.
A Year on Tetiaroa Atoll
Research & Conservation
The year began in the midst of a record Green Sea Turtle nesting season. By season’s end in April, the Te Mana o Te Moana team studying the turtles had counted 1,300 nesting tracks and around 50,000 eggs laid, both numbers more than double any other season in the last 11 years of study. Reasons for these numbers are not clear, but in any case the news is very good for sea turtle conservation on Tetiaroa.
The very successful Lagoon Replenishment Program carried out by CRIOBE wrapped up early in the year. This project showed that it is possible to enhance lagoon fish stocks by catching fish larvae at the reef crest and raising them up in aquarium before releasing in the lagoon. The methodology perfected here can now be used in places where fish stocks have been depleted by overfishing.
Newly released fry head off to a life in the lagoon of Tetiaroa
The University of Washington sent down three groups of researchers this year working on Ocean Acidification, Shark Ecology, and a new program on Seabird Ecology and Conservation. This ongoing partnership with Tetiaroa Society has been extremely productive.
The Institute Louis Malarde, responsible for demonstrating that a mosquito population can be controlled using sterile males, began a long-term eradication project on Motu Onetahi in September of this year. The feasibility study, completed in 2017 showed that a mosquito population could be reduced by 95%, but the work beginning this year will aim to completely eradicate them from the motu.
The big story for this year was the beginning of the Tetiaroa Habitat Restoration Program. The key component for this program is rat eradication and this year Tetiaroa Society collaborated with the University of Auckland, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and Island Conservation to carry out a series of very useful experiments and the successful eradication of rats on Motu Reiono. This is a great start to a program that will see the whole of Tetiaroa rat free and able to be used as a sanctuary for endangered fauna and flora.
The Tetiaroa Society Education Program which started up in 2017 began bringing students ages 8 to 14 to the island in 2018. Over the course of the year Tetiaroa Society welcomed 10 classrooms with 186 students total, and one group of 10 teachers who came for training. The student groups stayed on the island for 4-5 days each and during that time were taught about Tetiaroa flora and fauna, history and culture, and sustainable development.
It is safe to say that the experience that these children have learning about Tetiaroa up close and personal is transformative. Many of them had never seen an atoll before visiting here. Watching sharks patrol the shore and seabirds wheel overhead, examining turtle tracks on the beach, constructing shelters from natural material, and sitting quietly at an ancient Polynesian temple (marae) are all experiences that they will never forget. Teachers and parents that accompany the students have been amazed with the effect of this experience on the children. Students who were disinterested in school suddenly became engaged, and some that were reserved found ways to express themselves.
All of them students and teachers alike went home from Tetiaroa with a new found appreciation of their islands, and a commitment to the preservation of the environment.
Thank you for helping us carry out our mission!
Tetiaroa Society was very fortunate to have the support of many organizations and people in 2018, and we would like to thank all of them. But we would like to give a special shout out to some who provided exceptional support: The Brando Resort, the Brando Family Trust, SA Frangipani, the Commune of Arue, the Government of French Polynesia, the Rubin Family, The O’Connell Family Trust, the Kirovsky Family, IFBD Ltd., the Buhalys, and the Shepherds. Thank you for helping us carry out our mission!
The Green Turtle and Tetiaroa: A beautiful love story
The Green Sea Turtle, Chelonia midas, or Honu in Tahitian, is one of the most fascinating animals in the ocean, and Tetiaroa plays a key conservation role for the local population.
In pre-European times the Polynesian people considered honu to be sacred, an animal of the ocean that comes on land to nest, thus connecting the two worlds of this island culture. Turtles were known for power, tenacity, courage, and long life, and were frequently claimed as totems by Polynesian families.
Green Sea Turtles are by far the most common turtle species in French Polynesia. Their name comes from the color of a fatty layer under the shell which is tinged green because of the adult’s herbivorous diet of sea grass and algae. The species is found all through the tropical oceans, and they are known to travel long distance between feeding and nesting sites. The turtles nesting on Tetiaroa have been tracked across the Pacific to Fiji, but even on these long migrations the turtles, male and female, always return to the island they were born on.
This energetic and healthy baby turtle is trying to get outside of the lagoon. It must get over the barrier reef as fast as possible to escape its predators in the lagoon, then swim far from the island. It will not stop swimming for 2 weeks, after which it will start a very mysterious life in the wide open ocean… The turtles are not usually seen again around our islands until their shells measure about 40 cm long.
Good bye to a dear friend, Dr. Ruth Gates
Tetiaroa Society CASUP Board Members Jean-Yves Meyer, Ruth Gates, and James Russell.
For Tetiaroa Society the most painful memory of the year was the loss of our dear friend, colleague, and Tetiaroa Society Scientific Advisory Board member, Dr. Ruth Gates, who passed away on October 25th. All who knew Ruth were touched by her infectious enthusiasm and optimism. She was “widely viewed as the most effective communicator for coral reefs in a generation” (Nature). Given Ruth’s amazing capacity and passion, her untimely death was a serious setback for coral reef science and the prospects for reefs worldwide. The important contributions Ruth made to coral reef science can be found at the Gates Coral Lab website. See also The Atlantic, the University of Hawaii, The New York Times, and the ARCS Foundation for tributes to Ruth and her efforts to save coral reefs. She will be sorely missed.
Tetiaroa Society receives generous support from The Brando for our core operations, but our ability to carry out innovative programs depends on your help -- any amount is appreciated!
Tetiaroa Society is a US registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (Tax ID #45-1080688). We host scientific research, develop and implement conservation and education programs, and curate the island's knowledge base. We partner with The Brando to establish Tetiaroa as a model for sustainability, where businesses, non-profits, scientists, educators and the local community work together for common goals. Our program objectives are summarized in our Conservation and Sustainable Use Plan, which is available on our website.