Marine Conservation on Tetiaroa

Today we embarked for Tetiaroa with a two hour boat trip from Moorea. As we arrived at Tetiaroa we were fortunate enough to see humpback whales and spinner dolphins greeting us. Tetiaroa atoll was purchased by Marlon Brando in the 1960s and today the Brando Ecohotel is operated on the atoll. Over the next 10 days we will be studying the distribution of introduced terrestrial species on the atoll and making recommendations for their management, but today we endulged with the marine biota.

Humpback whale breaching at Tetiaroa
Humpback whale breaching at Tetiaroa (Photo by James Russell)

As we approached Tetiaroa atoll this morning we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by breaching humpback whales. In this case a female and her baby were lying just off the coast and enjoying the unseasonal climate. The strong Pacific El Niño event last summer have apparently delayed the arrival of whales in French Polynesia this year. This sighting was one of the few off the coast of the atoll. Then, as we approached the atoll a pod of spinner dolphins were also excited by our arrival and launched themselves in front of the bow of our vessel.

Spinner dolphins before Onetahi, Tetiaroa (Photo by James Russell)

Our team will be based on Tetiaroa where we will undertake atoll-wide terrestrial surveys of key invasive species such as invasive ants and rats. These surveys will allow us to prioritise eradication and biosecurity operations, and ensure the protection off the atolls existing biodiversity, and enhance opportunities for future conservation and restoration. Ultimately, we hope to contribute to Marlon Brando’s vision “to maintain the natural beauty of the atoll setting”.

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Meet the Author
Conservation biologist Dr. James Russell works throughout the world on remote islands and other sites to provide conservation solutions by applying a combination of scientific methods. Follow James on National Geographic voices for regular updates on his own work or other exciting developments in island conservation.