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Promoting bird conservation in the Cook Islands

Saturday 10 September 2022 | Written by Te Ipukarea Society | Published in Opinion


Promoting bird conservation in the Cook Islands
Ieremia Samuela, young leader representative at next week’s BirdLife International Congress to be held in Cambridge, UK. TIS/22090903

Te Ipukarea Society has a long history in bird conservation, in collaboration with local partners. We all have the same goal to protect our native birds and restore local ecosystems.

Bird conservation in the Cook Islands has included collaborative efforts with the Mangaian community in developing a resource management plan for the endemic Tanga’eo, the Mangaian kingfisher.

Saving Suwarrow’s seabirds through rat eradication expeditions has been a major component of our bird conservation work since 2005. We have also supported the efforts of the Takitumu Conservation Area Landowners Committee in bringing the Kakerori back from the brink of extinction through annual rat control programmes in the TCA.

BirdLife International is a global network of national partners, of which Te Ipukarea Society is one. BirdLife has played a significant role in building the capacity of the Society with the necessary skills to carry out rat eradication projects and seabird surveys. They also help create opportunities for members to share experiences and learn from one another about their areas of bird conservation work.

The most significant of these networking opportunities for BirdLife members to come together occurs every four years during the BirdLife Global Congress. Next week will mark the start of BirdLife’s week long congress, and also marks their 100th year anniversary, from when BirdLife first established in London. At this year’s congress Te Ipukarea Society will be represented by conservation manager Alanna Smith and volunteer Ieremia Samuela.  

Ieremia Samuela has been a volunteer for TIS since 2013, working closely in the rat eradication projects that have taken place on Suwarrow. Ieremia is the most experienced when it comes to rat eradication work in the Cook Islands having been involved in the three expeditions since 2013.

The BirdLife 100 World Congress will be held in the ancient university city of Cambridge in the UK, where BirdLife is headquartered. It will see the launch of BirdLife’s ambitious new 10-year global strategy to address the nature and climate crisis threatening our world today. A series of discussion panels will also be held to explore topics ranging from biodiversity and climate change to conservation finance.

Ieremia will be a part of the Young Leaders programme, where he will be networking with other young conservation leaders from around the world learning and sharing more about their work with birds. The handpicked young leaders have been supported by camera company Canon, and each leader will get a camera and interview each other about the work they do in their parts of the world. They will also document experiences along the way such as a site visit to Minsmere Nature Reserve and the well-known Sherwood Forest, home of legendary folk hero Robin Hood.

Members from the Pacific who will also be in attendance at the congress includes NGO’s from French Polynesian (SOP Manu), Fiji (Nature Fiji) and Palau (Palau Conservation Society).

Birds around the world have huge ecological value, playing a crucial role in the function of natural systems. These include keeping insect and pest levels down, pollinating plants and spreading seeds, all of which bring tangible benefits to people. In the Cook Islands, our native birds are in legends and within songs. They are important indicators used by local fisherman to source out schools of fish, and are signs of changes in weather. They were used to help find land by our ancestral Polynesian navigators.

The BirdLife Congress will provide a platform to talk about bird conservation in the Cook Islands as well as possibly provide opportunities to secure financing to continue our efforts in bird conservation.