Saving Mangaian kingfishers of the Cook Islands

This video says about itself:

A Management Plan for the Tanga’eo of Mangaia

1 October 2016

The Mangaian Kingfisher is endemic to Mangaia, Cook Islands. Discover more about the Tanga’eo and its current population numbers along with some current management tools set in place to ensure the Tanga’eo is preserved for many more years to come.

From BirdLife:

Denmark’s Aage V Jensen Foundation provides a future for the Cook IslandsMangaia Kingfisher and grows the knowledge of a remote island community on their natural heritage

By Te Ipukarea Society, 12 Oct 2016

A special bird in the Cook Islands in the Pacific is the Mangaian Kingfisher, (known locally as Tanga’eo). It is unique to the 5180 hectare Mangaia Island. The Tanga’eo is small, being mainly blue and white with orange bands around its eyes, and despite its name, it actually eats mainly lizards and insects rather than fish.

It is only rated as vulnerable and its population of around 500 birds seems fairly stable but, as with any species that rely on a single and relatively small habitat, that could change as it has many threats. Cats and rats, both Pacific rat and black rat, are present in all forest-types especially in areas with a lot of coconut trees) and are potential predators. The Common Myna introduced from India numbers over 9000 birds. Goats, pigs, and rodents impact forest regeneration and there is land clearing for agriculture, all of which could potentially threaten the survival of the Tanga’eo.

One of the problems in protecting the population was a lack of ongoing population data as well as limited studies into nesting sites, breeding biology and spatial range. These had only have been assessed spasmodically over the years. Additionally, Mangaia island, although the second largest island within the Cook group, suffers from geographical isolation, combined with the high cost of domestic airfares to access Mangaia from the capital island, Rarotonga. The future of this unique bird depends on the local community. But the total population of less than 500 residents on Mangaia lacked the knowledge and resources to implement long-term conservation measures to protect the Tanga’eo.

Stepping up was the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation as part of its wider `Saving Paradise’ project with BirdLife International. This project has enabled a longer-term study to take place which looks at bird biology and behaviour over differing seasons as well as time progression. It also has been an important means of addressing gaps in conservation knowledge combined with species-specific information; in order to achieve a long term conservation vision for this iconic Kingfisher. And to share the information with the local community and empower them to take the lead in an important part of their natural heritage.

The main outcome of the project was a significant raising of awareness of the island people that they are the custodians of a very special part of the world’s biodiversity, the Tanga’eo. And if they do not look after it, it will be lost to the world forever. They are now more aware of the potential threats to the survival of the Tanga’eo, such as invasive species and habitat loss. The Tanga’eo rangers, originally established 16 years ago to get young people in involved in biodiversity and other aspects of environmental protection, is also being re-formed as a result of the project.

Due to the fact that the bird is widely distributed throughout many parts of the island, these threats are not having a significant impact at present – in fact the population may be increasing a little. Population numbers appear constant, or may even be increasing, based on the latest surveys and verbal reports from the locals. Having said that, the island has now been declared by proclamation as a reserve for the Tanga’eo. The Island Council has not however regulated this in any by-laws, as they do not think it is needed at present. There is some further consideration being given to some smaller areas for more specific protection.

The project phase has now come to an end and the local community will be the champions of the Tanga’eo. To brief them and also to celebrate the new commitment to conservation and nature on Mangaia, at the end of August Te Ipukarea Society staff Liam Kokaua, Alanna Smith and Mere McDonald and local biodiversity expert Jason Tuara travelled to the island to conduct a final presentation on Tanga’eo conservation. This was a premier screening of the new 15 minute Tanga’eo Documentary directed by Alanna Smith – and presented, along with popcorn, to an enthusiastic crowd. The documentary provides viewers with an overview of the Tanga’eo, its habitat, and the history of conservation activities relating to the bird. The documentary also doubles as a management plan for the bird, to help guide the Mangaia community in its future conservation.

This project is a great illustration of practical conservation in action where the sustainability of nature depends so much on the community, accepting as its own, the conservation of its local species and the habitat on which they depend.

As part of the trip and a wider TIS project supporting the use of composting and worm farms in the Cooks, the TIS team conducted a training session for senior students and the handover of a worm farm and compost bin to Mangaia School. The training consisted of TIS staff covering the “do’s and don’ts” of what to put into the worm farms and compost bins, as well as an overview of the process of decomposition and how it can reduce the amount of organic waste they burn on Mangaia. The Mangaia students and staff were enthusiastic about caring for their worms and compost bin, and principal promised to build a shed to house the two waste units. The senior students were then given the opportunity to watch the new Tanga’eo documentary, and the students enjoyed seeing some of their fellow classmates being interviewed about the kingfisher. While on the island, the TIS team managed to gather more information to add to the documentary including clarification of tree species, and received more interview footage from veteran Mangaian environmentalist, Allan Tuara.

How to highlight bird conservation and plastic waste? Enter Miss World. Conservation Project Officer Alanna Smith, aka “Miss Cook Islands”, talks about her passion for conserving her country’s bird species, and how she’s more likely to be found making compost with local kids than wearing heels: here.

Rarotonga flycatchers, threatened Pacific birds

This video says about itself:

Rimatara Lorikeet – found only on Rimatara (Tubuai Islands), Kiribati, Atiu (Cook Islands)
Rarotongan Fruit-dove – found only on Rarotonga and Atiu (Cook Islands)
Rarotongan Flycatcher – found only on Rarotonga and Atiu (Cook Islands)
Chattering Kingfisher – found only in Society Islands and Cook Islands

Videos, photography and sound recording by Philip Griffin, April 2014 – Atiu, Cook Islands

From BirdLife:

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation help staff of Cook Islands‘ partner save the Rarotonga Flycatcher

By Te Ipukarea Society, 12 Oct 2016

In August the conservation of the colourful Kakerori (Rarotonga Flycatcher) got a boost through a hands on training of local staff from visiting predator control specialists from New Zealand. Te Ipukarea Society project officers Liam and Alanna got up close and personal with the rare bird in the Takitumu Conservation Area (TCA) where they joined staff of New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC) as they traversed the rat baiting tracks, which are crucially important in keeping rat populations low enough to ensure the Kakerori’s survival. The two young officers learnt valuable techniques from the New Zealanders including setting up of mist nets and learning how to catch, measure, weigh and band the birds before releasing them back into the forest.

The Kakerori are the main characters in an inspiring Cook Islands conservation story. They were formerly common around Rarotonga, yet by the 1900s it was assumed they were extinct. However, in the 70s and 80s, surveys found that the Kakerori persisted in small numbers on the Southern side of Rarotonga. In the spring of 1987, Rod Hay and Hugh Robertson from New Zealand and Cook Islands biodiversity expert Gerald McCormack launched the Kakerori Recovery Programme, under the auspices of the Cook Islands Conservation Service, with volunteers. The first two breeding seasons established that the total population of 38 Kakerori were restricted to an area of about 150 hectares in the headwaters of adjacent valleys and that their eggs and nestlings were being destroyed by rats, the most common being the Ship Rat (Rattus rattus). And that the population decline was accelerating!

New Zealander Ed Saul became the backbone of the programme during the third season (1989): poisoning rats, protecting nests and documenting nest success. As a result of his continued efforts, initially as a volunteer and later as a member of the Cook Islands Conservation Service, the number of Kakerori rose from the low of 29 initiating his first season to more than 132 at the start of the 1996 breeding season. Today it is estimated there are over 400 Kakerori on Rarotonga. There is also a population of over 100 on Atiu, where a group of 30 birds had been translocated between 2001 and 2003, as Atiu is free of the ship-rat. This was done in order to further protect the species, in case something ever happened to the population on Rarotonga. Atiuan bird expert ‘Birdman George’ has been instrumental in the protection of these new inhabitants since their arrival on the island.

Passing on the expertise to a new generation of conservation leaders is essential to continuing the progress made in saving the threatened birds and nature of the Pacific and building on a project that owes so much to the dedication of individuals like Ed Saul.

Stop corporate overfishing off Cook Islands

This Greenpeace video says about itself:

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza documented FAD free purse seine tuna fishing operations in Papua New Guinea west and central Pacific in November 2011.

By Te Ipukarea Society of the Cook Islands, 26 May 2016:

BirdLife Cook Islands partner, Te Ipukarea Society, takes a stand against purse seine fishing and the damage it is doing to Pacific fisheries

The state of the marine ecosystems and the huge pressures on them from climate change, pollution and overfishing are big issues for BirdLife partners around the world. And this is especially the case for Bird Life Cook Islands partner, Te Ipukarea Society (TIS). It is part of the growing opposition to purse seine fishing, especially that associated with Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs).

TIS believes that these Fish Aggregation Devices, used in conjunction with purse seine fishing, threatens fishing stocks and should be banned in Cook Islands waters. This fishery is supposed to target skipjack tuna. However FADs attract not only skipjack but also juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna which are not as resilient to high fishing pressures. Bigeye tuna in particular is highly vulnerable, as the fish is slow to mature, and the juveniles caught by purse seiners using FADs are not given a chance to breed. Only 16 percent of Bigeye tuna’s original stock in the Western Central Pacific Ocean remains.

On April 15th the third anti-purse seine fishing protest march was held in Avarua, Rarotonga, almost a year to the day after the first march was held last year. Organised by Cook Island traditional leaders, TIS was a proud supporter, alongside local MP’s, fishermen and concerned members of the public. Paramount chief Makea Karika Ariki (Dame Margaret Karika), now in her 97th year, led the march. It is estimated a total of 250 people made the effort to join the march on a Friday afternoon.

A petition asking to ban purse seining, signed by over half of the voting population of the country is still sitting in the Cook Island Parliament untouched 10 months after being presented. There is real concern that the Government is not listening to the out-pouring of public concern. It has continued pushing to finalise a deal. Which will allow the EU to bring four “Super Seiners” into Cook Islands waters. These ships are some of the largest purse seine vessels in the world and are known to fish exclusively on FADs. Potential impacts on our pelagic ecosystems could be disastrous.

Scientists have discovered a way to use the incredibly loud, distinctive sounds that fish make when they gather to spawn to protect them from overfishing: here.

Ending overfishing would stop the population declines of endangered bycatch species about half the time: here.

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.

Cook Islands whale research, video

This video says about itself:

Whale Researcher Nan Hauser: Using Science to Inform Smart Policy – Conservation International (CI)

June 6, 2013

Nan Hauser is a marine biologist and Conservation International Marine Fellow who works in the Cook Islands studying whales and dolphins. Her amazing, fascinating studies have generated some of the most eye-popping footage of whales you’ve ever seen — and they also helped spur the creation of one of the largest protected areas on Earth.

Nan is working with CI to develop the Cook Islands Marine Park. This 1.1 million-square-kilometer (425,000-square-mile) park, bigger than Alaska, will help protect the islands’ tourism industry, which accounts for 70 percent of the national economy. And it will help keep a way of life alive for Cook Islanders, now and for generations to come.

Nan’s love, devotion and force of personality are all helping her make a massive difference, using her research to keep our oceans blue.

This video says about itself:

Rugby player Kevin Iro knows how to bring a team together. As the driving force behind the Cook Islands Marine Park, he envisions a place equally managed by all who depend on it.

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.

Cook Islands’ new shark sanctuary

This video is called Jonathan Bird’s Blue World: Tiger Sharks.

From Wildlife Extra:

Cook Islands create vast sanctuary for Sharks

Protected area in the South Pacific equals the size of Mexico

December 2012. The Cook Islands has banned the possession, sale, and trade of shark products and end commercial shark fishing in more than 1.9 million square kilometres (756,000 square miles) of ocean.

The Cook Islands declaration follows the recent announcement by neighbouring French Polynesia, creating the world’s largest contiguous shark sanctuary of more than 6.7 million square kilometres (2.6 million square miles). The Pew Environment Group applauds the Cook Islands for this decision.

“This is hopeful news for the world’s sharks and our efforts to protect them,” said Jill Hepp, director of shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group. “We are thrilled to see the Cook Islands become part of this global movement during a time when so many shark populations are threatened.”

“We are proud, as Cook Islanders, to provide our entire exclusive economic zone (EEZ), an area of 1.9 million square kilometres as a shark sanctuary,” said the Honorable Teina Bishop, Cook Islands Minister of Marine Resources when he made the announcement. “Together with our Polynesian neighbour, Tahiti Nui (French Polynesia), we have created the largest shark sanctuary in the World. We join our Pacific neighbours to protect this animal, which is very vital to the health of our oceans, and our culture.”

Size of Mexico

The sanctuary, encompassing an area the size of Mexico, is the result of a partnership between the Pew Environment Group and the Pacific Islands Conservation Initiative and the support of many local community and political leaders. Hundreds of signatures were collected on a local petition, and students submitted letters and drawings bearing the message “Akono Te Mango (Protect Our Sharks).”

“We’re very proud to stand together today in celebration for sharks and for the community,” said Stephen Lyon, director of the Pacific Islands Conservation Initiative. “It further establishes the Cook Islands, which has already declared both a whale sanctuary and a marine park, as a world leader in marine protection.”

The Cook Islands joins Palau, the Maldives, Tokelau, Honduras, the Bahamas, the Marshall Islands, and now French Polynesia in establishing shark sanctuaries. They cover a combined area of more than 11.4 million square kilometres (4.4 million square miles) of ocean. Sharks are key predators and their depletion risks the health of entire ocean ecosystems.