Saving Mangaia kingfishers on the Cook Islands

Mangaia kingfisher on stamp

From BirdLife:

Programme funded by the Aage V Jensen Charity Foundation of Denmark helps ensure the survival of the unique Mangaia Kingfisher of the Cook Islands

By Te-Ipukarea-Society, Sun, 13/03/2016 – 21:04

The Mangaia Kingfisher (Todiramphus ruficollaris) is a stunningly beautiful `chunky’ kingfisher that lives only on Mangaia Island in the Cook Islands. Its local name is Tanga’eo – which is named so because of the sound of its call. It is rated as Vulnerable but with less than 500 left, a catastrophic storm or fire on Mangaia could see it become Endangered. And there are plenty of other threats. These include the Common Myna which competes with it for food and has been known to harass nursing birds. Cats and rats and habitat degradation, in part due to the impact of goats and pigs, add to the potential uncertainty for this small single population of a vulnerable bird.

As it does in so many countries, the Aage V Jensen Charity Foundation of Denmark is assisting in work aimed at making the Tanga’eo less vulnerable, as part of a wider BirdLife Pacific project. With the Jensen support, BirdLife Cook Island’s partner Te-Ipukarea-Society (TIS) is aiming to establish a site support group on the 5200 hectare island, develop a community-led management plan and, with the community, raise awareness to help ensure that the crucial habitat of the Mangaia Kingfisher remains intact.

In February a TIS team visited the island and surveyed the known kingfisher habitat and talked with the local community. From day one, the TIS team conducted field research into known Tanga’eo habitats, and it was not long before they saw the birds and became accustomed to their call. This was much made much easier that it could have been because of the help of an experienced field worker Allan Tuara, with family ties to the island. They were able to visit all the key areas and collect a good amount of photo and video footage of the birds. This footage will be made into a documentary to help promote the conservation of the Tanga’eo. The other key aim of the visit was to talk with the local community and raise the awareness of the threatened status of the Tanga’eo.

The team visited Mangaia College and conducted interviews with selected junior and senior school students to gauge what they knew about their special bird. Three of the team went on Mangaia TV to talk about their recent activities on the island and explain some of the other work that TIS does for the Cook Islands. While they were there the team also returned to the school to do a presentation regarding purse seine fishing to senior students.

The team are now working on producing the Tanga’eo documentary which is to be aired on national TV in the coming months, bring the plight of the Kingfisher and the efforts to save it to a much wider audience.

Growing the community awareness of the unique kingfisher is a key part of the longer term plan to ensure its future. The people of Mangaia have responded by opening up the entire island for Tanga’eo research and also for providing hospitality to the researchers. As with all conservation in the Pacific, saving the threatened species of the region depends on local BirdLife partners working with the local communities to appreciate the special natural treasures and joining together to protect them and the key habitat on which they depend.

And the support of generous donors like the Aage V Jensen Charity Foundation, supporting nature all across the world.

Conservationists in Suriname, Guyana, Cook islands

This video from Suriname says about itself:

Field Spotlight: Monique Pool’s Sloth Sanctuary – Conservation International (CI)

Monique Pool, CI partner and founder of the Green Heritage Fund Suriname, finds herself “slothified” after an area of forest in Paramaribo, Suriname, is cut down. Monique rescued more than 200 animals, mostly sloths, and brought them to an emergency shelter, which also happens to be her home. Watch how Monique manages to feed, house, and release the sloths back into the wild.

From Conservation International:

3 Conservation Champions Who Rocked Our World in 2013

John Martin

During the course of 2013, we were fortunate to have met and worked with three amazing conservation champions who are important friends and partners to CI.

1. Monique Pool, from the greenest country on earth — Suriname — became “slothified” when she rescued over 200 sloths out of a patch of forest that was being cleared for cattle pasture. All animals were brought to her house and eventually released back into a protected forest. Her drive and passion for these animals is so inspiring to us.

2. Nan Hauser from the Cook Islands in the South Pacific seduced us with her contagious strength and spirit. Her whale research and deep passion and understanding for these amazing marine mammals have helped create one of the largest marine parks in the world.

3. And finally, Sydney Allicock from Guyana. Indigenous leader, member of parliament, ecotourism pioneer, charismatic storyteller — these are just a few words to describe how this conservation champion has conserved his people’s traditional ways of life, protected their forests and biodiversity, and thus improved his people’s livelihoods.

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Save Suwarrow islands’ seabirds

This video is called BirdLife Invasive Species Programme – Saving Suwarrow’s Seabirds.

BirdLife writes about this:

BirdLife launches invasive species video – Saving Suwarrow’s Seabirds

Tue, Jul 16, 2013

At BirdLife’s World Congress last month we launched our newest global conservation programme. The BirdLife Invasive Alien Species Programme will work around the globe to tackle one of the greatest of threats to our natural world. Today we’re launching a new video by award-winning filmmaker Nick Hayward showcasing just what it takes to eliminate rats in restoring a remote atoll in the South Pacific…

Invasive alien species are animals and plants that have been introduced into a natural environment where they are not normally found. In the last 500 years, species like rats and cats have driven over 70 bird species to extinction.

“To tackle this major threat to birds and nature we recently launched the BirdLife Invasive Alien Species Programme”, said Donald Stewart – BirdLife Pacific Director.

From local to global, the new programme will develop and share our expertise to tackle invasive alien species whilst also calling for more effective policies and support for their delivery.

“Experience has shown benefits to birds, biodiversity and local economies are substantial where invasive threats are managed”, noted Don.

“Across sites of importance for endangered native wildlife the BirdLife Partnership will intensify this effort through the eradication or control of exotic species, and implementation of locally-led biosecurity measures to ensure these threats don’t return”.

On the ground, BirdLife Pacific, and the BirdLife Partner in the Cook Islands Te Ipukarea Society, recently completed an expedition to eradicate rats from Suwarrow Atoll.

“Suwarrow is one of increasingly few sites where seabirds occur largely undisturbed”, said Steve Cranwell – BirdLife Pacific Seabird Manager.

“The significance of which is reflected in the proportions of birds present including nine percent of the world’s population of Lesser Frigatebird, three percent of the world’s Red-Tailed Tropicbird and in excess of a hundred thousand Sooty Tern”.

Sadly, the growing rat population and their spread across the Atoll, threatened the breeding seabirds.

In order to conserve this globally important seabird site, BirdLife International and Te Ipukarea Society recently spent a month on the atoll in a carefully planned bid to remove the rats.

Joining the team was wildlife documentary filmmaker Nick Hayward – with the support of Wildiaries – seeking to produce a film about the operation. Nick won a place on the trip following a worldwide search by BirdLife for an experienced wildlife filmmaker, and posted regular blog updates from the field via satellite phone.

Nick’s now finished his video that provides a brief insight into what it takes to complete such an operation. Many months in the planning the team travelled the 930 km from Rarotonga to Suwarrow by sea. Twice. And dealt with challenges associated with unpredictable weather, swarms of wasps, and abundant coconut crab in a bid to banish invasive rats from Suwarrow.

It will be some time until we know for sure if their efforts have been successful, but early signs look positive.

Birds and crabs on Pacific paradise island

This video is called Seabirds of Suwarrow 2/6 Masked Booby (Lulu).

Also about masked boobies: here.

From BirdLife:

Suwarrow Blog 13 – Larcenous saboteurs and creative crab-chefs

The latest blog from wildlife filmmaker Nick Hayward as he joins a team from BirdLife and Te Ipukarea Society (BirdLife in the Cook Islands) eradicating rats from Suwarrow – a seabird mecca in the South Pacific.

Today the team search for more islets with rat inhabitants and find the inquisitive coconut crabs have a culinary bent.

“The baiting is still on hold while we wait for a gap in the weather. The vagaries of recent forecasts testing the patience of the team as predicted rain fails to eventuate. But telling how much rain is going to fall on a pinhead in the middle of the Pacific Ocean would be a challenge to any forecaster.

Nevertheless, this has given us a chance to attend to other tasks.

While planning the eradication, anecdotal reports suggested Motu Oneone may also have rats in addition to the known populations on Anchorage and Motu Kena. To verify this two nights of searching and trapping were conducted on the island.

Oneone is ten hectares of lush native tropical forest, a large booby colony and many frigatebirds. But most numerous are the coconut crabs whose inquisitive and destructive habits added to the challenge of trapping and life on the island. In an effort to put the rat-traps out of crab reach they were positioned in trees, but clearly a coconut morsel was irresistible to these lumbering calciferous crushers.

Returning to check the traps the following morning a piece of string to which a trap was once attached was all that remained. Searching the vegetation below generally revealed a spring, a treadle, and other dismembered parts.

Traps were by no means their sole attention.

The many new and shiny objects to be found at the camp provided a source of ‘entertainment and discovery’ like no other. Despite hanging anything that could be out of harm’s way, an extended search finally revealed the water bottle had received a pounding beneath a bush and the food bucket toppled mixing the plums and baked beans. A combination to test even the ravenous.

In spite of the local sabotage enough information was collected to confirm there are no rats on Oneone. Good news in progressing the aim of a rat-free Suwarrow.

Hopefully the weather will do its part in the next day or two and we can complete the baiting operations for Anchorage, Motu Tou and Motu Kena”.

Nick Hayward, Suwarrow Atoll, Cook Islands – 14th May 2013.

Update: here.

A Pacific bird paradise filmmaker’s blog

This video says about itself:

14 October 2010

Suwarrow is part of the Cook Islands. An atoll, inhabited by two caretakers, James and Apii who showed us around this paradise.

From BirdLife:

Suwarrow Blog Eight – Land ahoy!

Fri, May 3, 2013

The latest blog from wildlife filmmaker Nick Hayward as he joins a team from BirdLife and Te Ipukarea Society (BirdLife in the Cook Islands) eradicating rats from Suwarrow – a seabird mecca in the South Pacific.

Today they land on Suwarrow and are welcomed by swarms of seabirds, sharks and crabs…

“As the distance counted down to our destination everybody was on deck searching for the first sight of Suwarrow. Peering above the horizon we first saw the trees of Motu Oneone. As we approached the lagoon entrance we spied Lesser Frigatebirds swarming like bees over their globally important colony. A flock of Black Noddies streamed in low over the water as the frigates pounced, pirating their food. A huge tropical downpour briefly obscured the view, a good omen for a successful expedition.

As we lined up the entrance the rain cleared revealing a magnificent sky over our new home Anchorage Island.

The Southern Cross doesn’t have a dingy so the bravest team members swam ashore to retrieve the caretaker’s boat. Shortly afterwards a patrol of Black-tipped Reef-sharks circled the yacht. Luckily they are not man eaters.

Early next morning everybody helped to unload the stores, fuel and bait. It was hot and heavy work loading the dingy then stowing all the equipment carefully ashore.

The hard work didn’t finish there. After lunch we began the work of preparing the tracks for the rat baiting. The vegetation on Anchorage is thicker than expected so it’s hard slow work cutting through dense coconut and scrub thickets.

Suwarrow, apart from being a bird paradise, is also a land of crabs. Everywhere you look there’s scurrying little creatures. All sorts of crabs from small hermits to the large coconut crabs.

After our first full day ashore, we were treated thanks to the fishermen and Ian to the most magnificent fresh fish and coconut curry”.

Nick Hayward – Suwarrow Atoll, Cook Islands.