Mangaia 96: conservation in the Cook Islands

Camilla Baker

The team investigated the status, distribution and habitat of rats and landbirds on Mangaia, Cook Islands. The Mangaia Kingfisher (Todirhamphus ruficollaris) was more abundant than anticipated. The preliminary population estimate was 582 +/- 181 (80% certainty), compared to the predicted 300 birds. The highest densities were in secondary forest. Densities for the Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) (a potential competitor) and Cook islands Reed-warbler (Acrocepahlus kerearako) were calculated. Warblers were found at high densities in all habitats; mynas were never found in closed-canopy primary and Barringtonia forest. A significant correlation was found between rat (Rattus exulans and R. rattus) numbers and habitat disturbance. Plant communities were mapped. The team gave talks to school children and the Island Council. Signs were erected promoting the kingfisher's presence. Posters with similar aims are being prepared.

Project update: 9/1/97. Mangaia 96 investigated the populations and distributions of rats and landbirds on the island, and their habitats. The project: (1) provided a population density estimate for the threatened endemic Mangaia Kingfisher (the species was more plentiful than anticipated); (2) found a significant correlation between numbers of rats and forest disturbance; (3) mapped plant communities. Two UK members led a follow-up to survey fruitbats in 1997 (31st October to 7th December) and assessed the impact of the Mangaia 96: awareness of the project’s target species, the Kingfisher, was found to be higher and was further raised during the follow-up with posters. A team member hopes to produce bird survey action packs to stimulate annual censusing by Mangaians.