1 Aug 2017
The rare native wildlife of a remote island has retreated to a precarious existence on vertical cliffs. An urgent project supported by the 2017 Birdfair is leading the counter-attack against invasive species to save the “little planet” of Rapa Iti
By Shaun Hurrell
"Rapa is extremely isolated, even by Pacific standards”, says Steve Cranwell, BirdLife’s Invasive Alien Species Programme Manager. This, coming from a man who knows a thing or two about restoring remote Pacific islands, accustomed to locating coral atolls or tiny rare seabirds, both specks in an endless ocean, before helicopter fuel runs out or a tropical storm hits. Saving Rapa’s native wildlife is his next urgent challenge.
About four million years ago, midway between South America and Australia, a volcano erupted beneath the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, bringing into existence the beginnings of a unique new world. A four-thousand-hectare island, Rapa Iti (“little Rapa”, named to distinguish it from the distant, larger Rapa Nui or Easter Island) is one of the Bass Islands in the southernmost reaches of French Polynesia, where access for the island’s 500 inhabitants is provided only by monthly supply boat.