Eight months on my own and for the record in the Tuamotus

Eight months on my own and for the record in the Tuamotus

TAHITI, April 17, 2024 – Marine biologist Mathieu Juncker begins a scientific mission on Wednesday that will lead him to live for the next eight months in complete self-sufficiency on a desert atoll in Tuamotu. There, in particular, he plans, in partnership with the French Biodiversity Office and the municipality of Anna, to collect data on the titi, an endemic bird in danger of extinction.

A project codenamed “Against the Current”. This is a big leap that Matthew Juncker is preparing to take. He organized it for months. We meet him as he hurriedly completes final preparations. The marine biologist will depart this Wednesday on a scientific and introspective mission to the Tuamotus. He plans to return only on December 25. Meanwhile, a whopping 252-day period of time during which the adventurer prepares to live alone on his industrious hermitage: a 600-square-kilometre desert atoll in the neighborhood of Anna.

This solitary immersion – this is the main reason for the operation – should allow him to study the Tuamotu Redhorse under natural observation conditions. The titi, or kivikivi, according to its local name, is an endemic bird of the archipelago, and is listed as a species in danger of extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The bird is only recorded on a few atolls, or even motu, free of introduced predators. Through one of these initiatives, Mathieu Juncker plans to live in complete self-sufficiency until next Christmas, as part of the “Against the Current” project. In the meantime, he plans to collect data on the species using visual observations, sensors, drones, cameras and audio recorders. Information on the state of the titi's habitat: the presence of predators or mechanical erosion of the islands under the influence of waves. Ultimately, this monitoring data can be used to recommend conservation actions for birds and, more generally, for atolls. The operation is organized as part of a call for projects launched by the French Biodiversity Office and the municipality of Anna. The “Against the Current” project has been in preparation for a long time, and was organized with the approval of the municipality and the land owners.

1.5 tons of material

But in general, for this marine biologist, the goal of the mission is above all “the joy of knowledge”: “I am a biologist and passionate about observing the wonders of a fish, a shark, or a bird. But there are also problems with the location: the atoll may be isolated; But it is still visited by visitors from time to time; people can come down and accidentally introduce mice and be a source of complete deterioration of the ecosystem on plants, crabs, birds etc. It can also be caused by climate change and its major medium-term changes in the environment That this knowledge is useful to the administration and for all practical purposes. I am neither the mayor nor the Ministry of the Environment but I can provide objective information that I think could be useful to them, in light of the issues, and given the beauty of this species, if they decide to protect it Ecosystem. In the marine environment, I will study coral reefs, fish, sharks, turtles and in the terrestrial environment, I will report on shoreline erosion, study plants and birds… and plan to carry out about ten monitoring events that will provide a comprehensive picture of the atoll. But this bird, Titi, is the one around whom everything will revolve.”

He leaves with 1.5 tons of equipment. He plans to recover on site, produce fresh water and fish, and collect algae and rare edible plants. He will have at his disposal a complete canteen as a pharmacy. “But the greater part of the load will be my wages.” An elevated habitat to protect against the dangers of inundation, which he built, in kit form, as a safe shelter capable of withstanding tropical depressions. He will have satellite communications on site and will use them as a last resort.

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