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Friday 19 February 2010 | Published in Regional


Director and researcher of the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Project Gerald McCormack has flown to Aitutaki to carry out an assessment on the biodiversity of the main island and motus.

The motus of Aitutaki are known worldwide for their picturesque sandy beaches, bountiful and lush greens, land, seabirds and colourful underwater marine world.

The motus were badly lashed by Cyclone Pat, which damaged trees and shrubs that have been home to many island and sea birds.

The massive Pacific mahogany trees, favoured by birds, were uprooted by the 100-180 kilometre-per-hour winds.

The assessment by McCormack is critical since it will determine what has been damaged, what has been lost and how to move forward.

McCormack has worked for the Cook Islands Government since 1980. In 1990 he became the director and researcher for the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Project (a trust since 1999) a position he has held since.

The project is a programme of the Cook Islands Government to collect and integrate scientific and traditional information on local plants and animals and to preserve such information, and make it available to the general public.

An accomplished photographer, McCormack is the lead developer of the Cook Islands Biodiversity Database, hosted by the Bishop Museum in Hawaii. Information in the data base is gathered from local and overseas experts, fieldwork and library research.

The Natural Heritage Project was initiated by Sir Geoffrey Henry within his Prime Minister’s Department in 1990. The project moved into the Natural Heritage Trust when it was established in 1999 by an Act of Parliament.

Appeal Media