Imperial Marquesas Dove, Marquesas Islands

Five Upe, or Imperial Marquesas Piegeon (Ducula galeata), were reintroduced to the island of Ua Huka in May 2000, and a further 5 birds were translocated in 2003. Upe were previously confined to the island of Nuku Hiva in the Marquesan archipelago (French Polynesia), and this was the source population for the reintroduction. The Upe is a huge frugivorous pigeon, one of the largest in the world. It is historically known only from Nuku Hiva island, but archeological evidences showed that it was present in the past in all the main islands of the group and was extirpated by the Marquesan hunters before the arrival of European navigators. The total population was estimated to be 140-210 in the 1990s, and the species is classified as critically endangered by the IUCN due to its small range and to a continuous decline due to illegal hunting and reduction of forest habitat. Because of the high risk of extinction the Société d'Ornithologie de Polynésie Manu (an NGO, created in 1990 in Tahiti devoted to bird conservation) decided with the approval of the government and the support of the local authorities to reintroduce the Upe on the nearby island of Ua Huka. Since the first release the pigeons are surveyed each year. The first chicks were observed shortly after reintroduction, and the population has been estimated around 18 in 2004, 25 in 2005 and 32 in 2006. It seems that our objective of 50 birds on Ua Huka by 2010 will be achieved, thanks to the breeding rate of these birds. Population numbers are also slowly growing on Nuku Hiva, where people are now sensitive about the fate of the Upe, and Manu has been solicited by the inhabitants of other islands from the Marquesas to reintroduce Upe. Contact Philippe Raust or Anne Gourni and at the Société d'Ornithologie de Polynésie.