Kakerori, or Rarotonga Monarch (Pomarea dimidiata) were introduced to Atiu Island (20º 01’ S, 158º 07’ W), southern Cook Islands, from 2001-2003. A total of 30 birds from the Takitumu Conservation Area (21º 15’ S, 159º 45’ W) in Raratonga were released. These consisted of 10 birds (4 yearling females, one 2-year-old female, three yearling males, two 2-year-old males) were released in August 2001, 10 birds (6 yearling females, 4 yearling males) in August 2002, and 10 birds (5 yearling females, one 2-year-old female, 3 yearling males, one 2-year-old female) in August 2003. Atui Island is 2693 ha, of which about 1640 ha (60%) is suitable forest habitat (880 ha makatea forest, 440 ha coastal or littoral forest, and 320 ha of inland forests). The translocation is classified as introduction because there is no evidence the species was extirpated following human arrival. However, is likely that kakerori lived on Atiu in the distant (pre-human) past because the species has been around for longer than the island of Rarotonga and so must have lived on other, older, islands in the southern Cook Islands. The aim of the introduction was to establish a second population in case some disaster (especially tropical cyclone) hit the small population (250-300 birds) that is confined to about 200 ha on Rarotonga. Atiu was chosen from other islands in the southern Cooks because of apparent absence of ship rats (Rattus rattus), a large area of suitable habitat, no known competitors, no likely impact on other native wildlife, and keen interest by the local community to have kakerori. Birds were mist-netted late afternoon and held in transfer boxes overnight, or mist-netted in the early morning and transferred the same day, hence the holding period varied from 3-23 h. They were supplied with water and fruit-fly larvae while in transfer boxes. Birds were transferred in batches of 1-7 birds, by foot to the road-end (10-60 minutes), then by road to airport (20 minute drive), by commercial or charter aircraft (45 minute flight), and then by road (5-20 minutes) to release sites on Atiu. There is ongoing monitoring of colour-banded birds on Atiu, and in source population on Rarotonga, and rat poisoning around the port on Atiu to hopefully intercept any ship rats that may arrive in cargo. Initial indications are that the introduction has been successful, with good survival of transferred birds, and successful breeding recorded in a variety of habitat types on Atiu. See Robertson et al. (2006) (see below) or contact Hugh Robertson, New Zealand Department of Conservation.
Rimatara Lorikeets, also called ‘ura, kura or Kuh’s Lorikket (Vini kulii) were reintroduced to Atiu Island, 215 km north-east of Rarotonga, on 24 April 2007 when 27 birds arrived by plane from Rimatara in French Polynesia. The Rimatara birds were previously the only population left in the species historic range, although there are also two introduced populations in the Line Islands of Kiribati. The kura was previously found throughout the southern Cook Islands but appears to have been extirpated from the region by 1820 due to demand for its small red feathers that were used for ceremonial adornments. It probably survived on Rimatara due to a tapu put in place by Queen Tamaeava Arii Vahine around 1900 and due to the absence of ship rats (Rattus rattus) on the island. Atiu was chosen as a reintroduction site due to the absence of ship rats there, and a key part of the project will be to ensure it remains free of ship rats. The planning for the project took place over a 15 year period, and was complex due to crossing of cultures, languages and national boundaries. The lorikeets are being monitored by the local Atiu population, with annual revisits by members of translocation team to estimate abundance and breeding activity. There have been at least two successful nests (fledging 4 young) on Atiu, and >= 4 of the translocateed birds dispersed to the neighbouring island of Mitiaro (which has black rats) and are persisting on that island so far. The reintroduction was featured in the November 2008 issue of Psittascene, the magazine of the World Parrot Trust. Contact Gerald McCormack or Alan Lieberman.