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Jun
09

A forested motu!

We’ve been in Raroia now for almost a month, it’s a fabulous place and we’re enchanted by the many untouched motus and the large bird colonies.

Now we’re down in the Southeast, which tops it all:

Here the small motus are covered in shrubs, but the biggest motu has a proper forest with different leaf trees–the first remaining forest we’ve found in the Tuamotus–mainly pisonia grandis with stems that are more than a metre thick and growing 20 m high. Underneath there’s of course a layer of humus soil from the fallen trees and many leaves. Incredible, I suppose that’s what the South Pacific atolls looked like when the first Polynesians arrived… We’ve just read books written by travellers in the 19th and early 20th century when it was still common to visit atolls for logging and of course copra plantations were set up everywhere. First thing they did was ‘clearing’ the motus of all endemic plants to set up rows of coconut trees, the result are barren motus with sharp coral gravel and no water for anything but the deep roots of the coconut trees. Sadly this practice still goes on today and is encouraged by the government, as the prices for copra are heavily subsidised..
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Up in the trees large numbers of noddies and white terns are nesting right now, red-footed boobies as well. On this and the neighbouring motus we found 6 couples of masked boobies, a very rare species here in the Tuamotus. Two couples are just sitting on eggs, two others have fluffy chicks and two more chicks are already big enough to start flying.
All around the SE motus lots of tiny, chummy Tuamotu sandpipers have followed us around or flown over with their car-alarm-like peep-peep-peep announcement. Fortunately nobody has told these cheerful guys that they’re an endangered species.

We squeezed the talkative shop-owner in the village for info and it seems that the locals are aware of the treasure they have in their motu ‘sauvages’ with all the bird colonies. We heard that they actively want to protect their environment. Very outstanding for a Paumotu community…

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