Te Ipukarea Society conservation manager Alanna Smith accepts the award at the Birdlife International global congress in Cambridge, United Kingdom last week. Photo: Supplied/22092111
A project which has brought a native Cook Islands bird species back from the brink of extinction has won a major international conservation award.
Conservation Area, which has been a project for more than 30 years, has managed
to see the revitalisation of the Kākerōri, which
had fewer than 30 birds in the wild in the early 1990s and now has a population
of more than 700 today.
The project has
won a major award from international conservation group Birdlife International
at its global congress in Cambridge, United Kingdom. The congress took place
from September 11 to September 16.
Te Ipukarea Society
conservation manager Alanna Smith, who was representing the project at the
conference, said it was an award that honoured all the people that worked on
the conservation area.
“It’s because of
the work of people such as Ian Karika, Ed Saul, Hugh Robertson and the many,
many volunteers that the bird has been able to survive and thrive,” Smith said.
“It’s 155 hectares
of protective area, and every year, the birdlife population has continued to
Smith said the
annual rat baiting has been a success story in itself.
“I reckon it’s one
of the biggest success stories for conservation in the Pacific,” she said.
“Our partners in
French Polynesia have got a monarch that they’re trying to bring back from the
brink of extinction. If anything, they are looking to us for inspiration.”
Smith said the
annual rat baiting, coupled with the surveys, helped create a strong base from
which to assess and protect the birds.
young people involved would be great. It would require finding opportunities to
take them out into the field, and seeing how the bird lives in its own
environment. That would be a start,” she said.
Smith said rats,
feral cats and stray dogs were the biggest threats to the Kākerōri.
“If we target the
rats, then we go a long way to addressing the problem. Rats are a major issue,
they predate on the birds and destroy their nests. They can get up into the
trees,” she said.
Smith said there
were also plans to undertake a rat eradication programme on the uninhabited
island of Takutea, near Atiu.
“We want to work
really closely with the people of Atiu. There’s a good chance of a project like
that being a success. It’s more possible to do rat eradication projects on
uninhabited islands because the factor of dealing with people can become
trickier. You have to do the consultations with people, you have to get them to
understand what rules are in place,” Smith said.
“This is a project
we want to see happen over the next two years. We want to get the school
involved, getting them educated in predator control. If they can take
ownership, then hopefully we can get a rat-free island.”
Smith said she
learned a lot about various conservation programmes happening around the world
at the Birdlife International Congress, including the launch of BirdLife’s
ambitious new 10-year global strategy to address the nature and climate crisis
threatening our world today.
“It can be quite
hard working in the conservational realm, usually it seems all doom and gloom,
so it was great to be at the conference and hear about the other projects
around the world,” Smith said.