island conservation rarotonga flycatcher

Te Ipukarea Society and New Zealand Department of Conservation Team Up to Save Rarotonga Flycatcher from Extinction

Predator control specialists train local people in conservation methods to protect native wildlife, including the Kakerori. 

The Kakerori, or Rarotonga Flycatcher, is a colorful bird native to the Cook Islands. Once abundant in the region, the bird suffered population collapse due to predation by invasive species. The bird was believed to be extinct in the first half of the 20th century.

island conservation rarotonga flycatcher perching

A Rarotonga Flycatcher perched in a tree. Photo credit: Julie Scott Photography

Luckliy, it wasn’t extinct. Just really, really rare. Upon discovering a small population of the endangered bird, New Zealand and Cook Island biodiversity expert Gerald McCormack launched the Kakerori Recovery Programme, with kiwi Ed Saul supporting the operations. Also lucky for the Kakerori was that the threat to its survival was straightforward: invasive rats were preying on individuals and eggs. The Recovery Programme worked by supporting breeding and removing the invasive rats.

island conservation cook islands rarotonga flycatcher

The Rarotonga Flycatcher is vulnerable to invasive predators. Photo Credit: Russell Docksteader

The program was a success. Kakerori population grew from 29 individuals to over 400 today. A small population that had been moved to a neighboring island more than doubled–a success highlighting the importance and value of predator-free islands for endangered wildlife conservation. While the population growth is impressive and exciting, 400 is still an extremely low number. The bird will continue to benefit from support until its numbers are much higher. Ipukarea Society project officers received training from experts from New Zealand Department of Conservation. They learned techniques for monitoring the birds as well as removing invasive predators.

Passing on the expertise to a new generation of conservation leaders is essential to continuing the progress made in saving the threatened birds and nature of the Pacific.

island conservation rarotonga flycatcher in tree

The Rarotonga Flycatcher will have a better chance at survival when invasive predators are completely absent from its island home. Photo credit: Russel Docksteader

Featured photo: A Rarotonga Flycatcher perched in a tree. Credit: Russel Docksteader
Source: Birdlife Pacific News

About Sara Kaiser

Sara received a BA in anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 2014. As a freelance writer and editor, she seeks to produce and highlight stories that support ecological responsibility, body awareness, emotional intelligence, and creative action, and reveal the connections between them.

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