Historic moment for Mauke unga

Tuesday October 13, 2015 Written by Release Published in Environment
The team which will carry out the survey of coconut crabs on the island of Mauke this week. The team which will carry out the survey of coconut crabs on the island of Mauke this week.

Three years after creating a conservation site for coconut crabs on Mauke, a team of government agencies will be able to conduct the first survey of the protected species.


The National Environment Service (NES) together with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) sent teams from the Cook Islands Integrated Island Biodiversity (IIB) and Cook Islands Invasive Alien Species (IAS) projects to conduct the survey.

The conservation area for the coconut crabs, locally known as unga, was first declared by the island of Mauke in 2012, with plenty of support from the landowners.

This recent expedition marks the first time the island of Mauke has taken a look at the number, distribution and sex ratio of the unga.

An NES spokesman says the activity is a historical occasion for Mauke and the Cook Islands as a whole, in relation to the unga.

The National Environment Service has also involved people from Mangaia and Atiu as islands of the same ‘makatea’ type topography.

The service says these participants should be able to take part in a similar survey on their islands within the next year.

Reboama Samuel’s mapping expertise is also beneficial to the team in outlining the sites to be surveyed, and in providing coverage of the different habitats of the unga.

Last weekend, about 12 people were trained on how to collect data for scientific analysis of the count of unga on Mauke.

The NES spokesman says participants looked at the distribution of unga in relation to the world, the biology and other matters.

The methodology of the survey is adapted from a similar survey done in Niue by SPC member Ian Bertram.

Participants learnt how to measure the thoracic length of the unga as well as distinguishing between a male and female unga.

By the end of the week, those taking part in the survey hope to have an initial total count of the unga on the island and in the area of raui (conservation).

The team left for Mauke last Friday and will return to Rarotonga this week.

It is led by Senior Environment Officers, Mii Matamaki and Elizabeth Munro who are also project coordinators for the Cook Islands Integrated Island Biodiversity and Invasive Alien Species projects. 

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