Cook Islands

During a survey of the birds of the Cook Islands from July-September 1973, the birds of the islands of Atiu, Mitiaro, Mauke and Mangaia were investigated for the first time. Series of seven land birds that apparently represent undescribed forms were collected. This paper gives descriptions of these forms, in advance of a fuller report on their biology and that of the other birds seen.

During a visit to the Cook Islands, my wife and I spent 5 days (30 August to 3 September 1980) on Aitutaki, where we made a concerted effort to determine the composition and status of the birdlife.

In 1989, the kakerori (Pomarea dimidiata) was one of the ten rarest bird species in the world, with a declining population of just 29 birds in the Takitumu Conservation Area (TCA) of southeastern Rarotonga. As a result of conservation management, the kakerori population rebounded, with up to 300 birds being recorded on Rarotonga and Atiu in 2004/05. The southern Cook Islands was, however, hit by five tropical cyclones over a 4-week period in February–March 2005, and much of the forest on exposed faces, spurs and ridges (traditional kakerori habitat) was severely damaged.

In 1989, the kakerori (Pomarea dimidiata) was one of the ten rarest bird species in the world, with a declining population of just 29 birds living in south-eastern Rarotonga. As a result of conservation management, the kakerori population has rebounded, with a minimum of 281 birds on Rarotonga and 19 birds on Atiu in summer 2004/05. Since 2001, the emphasis of management in the Takitumu Conservation Area (TCA) on Rarotonga has shifted from the ‘recovery’ of kakerori to ‘sustaining’ the population at 250–300 individuals.

The Cook Islands signed the Convention on Biological Diversity at the Earth Summit in 1992. As a Party to the Convention, the Cook Islands Government committed itself and its people to conserve its biodiversity, to use it in a sustainable manner, and to share its benefits in an equitable manner. It also committed itself to control invasive species (the weeds and pest animals in natural ecosystems and agricultural systems), and to reduce the likelihood of future invasions.

The Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture seeks approval for the release of the plan pathogen Puccinia xanthii Schw. (Pucciniales: Pucciniaceae) into Rarotonga for biological control (biocontrol) of the introduced plant cockleburr Xanthium pungens Wallr. (syn. Xanthium strumarium; Xanthium occidentale Bertol.) (Asterales: Asteraceae).

The Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture seeks approval for the release of a gall-forming wasp Tetramesa romana and an armoured scale insect Rhizaspidiotus donacis into Rarotonga for biological control (biocontrol) of the introduced plant giant reed Arundo donax (Poales: Poaceae).

Invasive plants seriously threaten native habitats throughout the Pacific region, including the Cook Islands, where numerous invasive weed species of agricultural concern are also present.