FIRE ANTS FIND WAY INTO TAHITI

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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Feb. 10) – Fire ants have "already contaminated in a serious way" part of the island of Tahiti, according to a visiting entomologist who is studying the problem to try and find a solution.

"Based on information we already have, we are going to make onsite visits to Supermahina, Mahinarma et Atima" in Tahiti’s north coast Commune of Mahina, said Dr. Hervé Jourdan an entomologist in New Caledonia. He works for the IRD (Institut de research pour le développement), a French public science and technology research institute under the joint authority of the French ministries in charge of research and overseas development.

He said after inspecting Mahina his next visit would be to the adjacent Commune of Papenoo.

The imported fire ant species "that is in the course of colonizing the planet" presents a real danger for French Polynesia, Dr. Jourdan said. "It’s a real nuisance for the biodiversity. Nothing’s left where there are fire ants. For an island like Tahiti, it’s a real worry, taking into account its high level of diversity."

At the moment, the study of the species of fire ants found on Tahiti is not far enough advanced for specialists to be able to choose a solution.

Dr. Jourdan said that at the end of his mission, "we will be able to create a true cartography" and, depending on the extent of the phenomenon, . . . the decision between eradication or control will be made". He is due to submit his report at the end of this month.

Regardless of the eventual chosen solution, Dr. Jourdan said this battle should also involve the people of French Polynesia. "It’s man who moves the fire ant around and who builds new homes" for the insects. "We have reasons to think that we could control it (the fire ant), providing that the public’s awareness is increased. People must understand that there needs to be an eco-citizen approach," Dr. Jourdan said.

Along those lines, a public information campaign dealing with fire ants is due to be launched on Monday.

Dr. Jourdan also feels that plant health controls should be increased and recommends thinking about a structure to control what enters French Polynesia in order to avoid having worse things arrive.

"We’ve already had the Miconia, the cicadelle (what the French call "pissing flies") and today the small fire ant," Dr. Jourdan said. "Today there are even more serious problems at the doorstep of the Pacific."

February 11, 2005

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