Monday, December 2, 2013

Rat eradication programme works for Cook Islands

Mr. Ian Karika spreading rat bait on Suwarrow

By Josephine Navula, a journalism student of the Fiji National University.

3 December 2013, Suva Fiji - A conservation initiative in the Cook Islands has succeeded in protecting the country’s birdlife.

Elizabeth Munro, Cook Island’s biodiversity officer, said the programme’s success has meant that it would be replicated next year.

She said they engaged in the programme after it was established that rats were a significant threat to the islands’ birdlife.

"The birds were nesting on the ground and rats were feeding on their eggs and little chicks so we had to do something about it," Ms Munro said.

She said a baseline monitoring survey was first conducted in 2002 on the Island of Suwarrow. The Island had nine per cent of lesser frigate bird and three percent of the world’s trailed tropic bird.

"Our environment officers did a baseline monitoring of the islands that have the presence of the rats, and in May of this year they carried out the eradication programme for six weeks.”

The programme involved the setting out cereal bait pellets that contained brodifacoum, one of the world’s lethal pesticides.

Pacific Cooperation Islands Initiative project Coordinator, Bill Nagle said some birds may feed on the bait but it would not harm most of them like the affect rats.

“We cut out the tracks and hand distribute them, most of the ground birds feed on that too, but it was for the short-term period only. But it won’t kill a lot of birds like the rats, and they usually come out at night when no one can see them,” he said.

The operation was in partnership with Birdlife, Te Ipukarea Society and National Environment Service of the Cook Islands.

Birdlife International's Technical Support Officer Sia Rasalato said there was a need for the operation because the island was considered an important bird area between the Cook Islands and the rest of the region.

The eradication programme was also conducted in the Cook Island’s Anchorage Island, Motou Island and Motukena Island.

Josephine Navula is a member of the Media Team providing coverage of the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas from 2 to 6 December in Suva, Fiji.  This is a partnership between the Fiji National University (FNU), University of the South Pacific (USP), SPREP and Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) whereby a team of 10 journalism students are mentored by senior reporters as they cover the conference.  This activity is  funded by the Pacific Assistance Media Scheme (PACMAS).

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