For the past five years I have worked on Tetiaroa atoll in French Polynesia – famous as the island hideaway of Marlon Brando. This week I was invited to the inaugural meeting of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Tetiaroa Society – a not for profit organisation established to oversee the conservation and sustainable use of the atoll. The Tetiaroa Society works alongside The Brando, a unique tourist resort based at every level around principles of sustainability. The scientific advisory board toured the newly constructed hotel and scientific research eco-station and learnt about some of the amazing innovations in sustainability the hotel is employing. These include piping up deep-water from the ocean depths to provide guilt-free air conditioning, the use of coconut oil for environmentally friendly biofuel power generation, and the complete recycling of organic waste to nutrients in a 24 hour baking process. These innovations have put The Brando on the pathway to become the first ever LEEDS Platinum fully certified sustainable operation, and a finalist in the National Geographic Earth Changers category.
At the same time my work on Tetiaroa has just been published in the journal Biological Conservation. In 2010 we worked with the hotel on the uninhabited motu Honuea to undertake an experimental rat eradication with traps in order to minimise the use of poison. This experimental work also shed important light on the interactions between two invasive rat species, where one rat species has recently over-invaded another rat species, and the implications this might have on tropical rat eradications. This work developing rat eradication methodologies is coupled with similar work underway trialling eradication of invasive mosquitoes, which have similarly over-invaded the atoll. Both projects aim to enhance the experience of visitors to Tetiaroa and pave the way for island restoration projects, such as the ongoing monitoring of sea turtles by Te Mana o te Moana and the restoration of seabird breeding sites such as Tahuna-iti in association with SOP Manu.
I expect in the future there will be much learnt here about coral atoll conservation and sustainable use, in the manner that Marlon Brando himself always imagined would happen.