BirdLife International asked to help save French Polynesia's rupe

11:27 am on 27 July 2017

A French Polynesian group has approached BirdLife International for support to help protect an endemic pigeon, the rupe, on Makatea atoll earmarked for large-scale phosphate mining.

Rupe is endemic to Makatea

Rupe is endemic to Makatea Photo: supplied Te Rupe no Makatea

The Association Te Rupe no Makatea is alarmed at plans by an Australian company to resume mining on 600 hectares of the atoll - more than half a century after operations ceased.

In a letter, its president Dany Pittman said Makatea stands out as a raised atoll among the 77 mostly low-lying atolls and serves as a refuge for an area threatened by sea-level rise.

She said apart from the rupe, a fruit-dove and a warbler are already vulnerable and could face extinction.

She said the situation has become more serious after the government last week conditionally approved the mining project, saying it will go ahead if landowners want it.

The mining minister Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu told local television that Makatea could not be left as it is because something must be offered to its inhabitants.

Makatea had about 3,000 inhabitants at the height of the mining boom in the first half of the 20th century but the number dwindled to below 100 after mining ceased in 1966.

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