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Protecting threatened Over-seas biodiversity
45%

Reunion cuckooshrike

54%

Species factsheet

  • LIFE area: Réunion island
  • Scientific name: Lalage newtoni
  • Status: Reunion island endemic
  • Conservation status (IUCN): Critically endangered (IUCN)
  • Diet: Insects
  • Behaviour: Confiding but discreet
  • Hábitat: Forest, the Roche-Ecrite Massif
  • State of the population: 41 pairs (2020)

Our aims

55 pairs
Predator control over more than 1200 ha
15 “Tuit-tuit” squads
Translocation of the species

Threats

Invasive alien species:

Black and Brown rats and Domestic cats have all been introduced to Reunion island by man and are important predators of the cuckooshrike. Studies have shown that 95% of the species’ nests are predated by rats.  The introduced Red-whiskered bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus is also a threat to the species.

Les actions

Integrated method of Invasive alien species control:

A participative plan of deratification by using “Tuit-tuit” squads of volunteers trained in rat control and necessary security will work under the supervision of SEOR (Société d’Etudes Ornithologiques de la Réunion) staff. A framework for eradicating cats will be used throughout the 1000 ha. Which are at the core of the Reunion cuckooshrike’s habitat. A detection system will be set-up in order to confirm the presence/absence of cats in the area. The impact of the Red-whiskered bulbul on Réunion island endemic bird species will be evaluated and a method of controlling the species developed.

Results

Réduire l’impact du rat sur le Tuit-tuit

Des chantiers participatifs de dératisation ont eu lieu chaque année grâce à l’implication de nombreux bénévoles afin de réduire la pression de prédation exercée par les rats sur les adultes et les œufs de Tuit-tuit : 115 bénévoles en 2019, 155 en 2020 et 162 en 2021.

Des bénévoles ont été formés chaque année pour devenir Chef de Brigade afin d’encadrer eux-mêmes des chantiers de dératisation : 11 en 2019, 13 en 2020 et 15 en 2021.

Ces chantiers ont permis de dératiser 1000 ha en 2019, 980 ha en 2020 et 1025 ha en 2021.

La dératisation par drone a été testée et a permis de contrôler des zones non accessibles à pied par l’Homme : 135 ha en 2020 et 87 ha en 2021 soit une surface totale dératisée de 1 115 ha en 2020 et de 1 112 ha en 2021

Le nombre de couple identifiés et protégés de Tuit-tuit est passé de 37 en 2018 à 48 en 2021.


Brigade Tuit-tuit en 2021 © SEOR

Acquérir de nouvelles connaissances

En 2020, trois études ont été effectuées sur le Tuit-tuit afin d’en apprendre davantage sur son habitat, la génétique de d’espèce et sa dynamique de la population.

Ces études ont permis de mettre en évidence une dynamique favorable et d’identifier des sites favorables pour une potentielle translocation.

Les études génétiques soulignent une diversité génétique faible mais aucun signe de consanguinité.


Tuit-tuit juvénile © Jaime Martinez

The expert

Damien FOUILLOT

Correspondent for species conservation at the SEOR (Société d’Etudes Ornithologiques de la Réunion) and coordinator of the “Tuit-tuit” team.

What do the people of Reunion think of the “Tuit-tuit” (Reunion cuckooshrike)?

They consider it to be part of their local heritage even though they have no particular interest in the species. Tourists visiting the Roche Ecrite know that it’s a rare bird and many hope to see it when they come.

Can you give an emblematic detail of the species?

Its song. It resounds loudly within the forest. Its Creole name is an onomatopoeia as is that of the Tek-tek (Reunion stonechat). The “Tuit-tuit” is very difficult to see but easily heard. It is a familiar sound to any person who has spent any time in the forest, leaving a memorable souvenir.

How has its population fared recently?

Seven pairs were present in 2003 when the SEOR started to work on the species’ conservation. There are 40 at present. The population has increased 5-fold and its habitat covers between 10 and 20 km². The deratification zone is 13 times larger than 10 years ago. Today the “Tuit-tuit” occurs over an area of 2000 hectares.

What are the main threats and the reasons for its disappearance?

Mainly rats and feral domestic cats. Overall the species was probably present above 800 m in all of the relict forest. Man’s arrival on the island completely transformed the forest by clearing it. Everywhere the locals call the “Tuit-tuit” the “imbecile bird” as it readily approaches humans and is easily captured.

What do you want from the LIFE BIODIV’OM program?

Succeed in the translocation of the “Tuit-tuit” to a massif where it occurred in the past. Having two geographically separate sites would eliminate the risk of fire destroying both sites at the same time. I also hope that deratification efforts will be made safe and that several core populations will be created thus ensuring the species’ future and change in its IUCN red list status.