Cooks' Atiu on track to be first mynah-free Pacific island
Atiu in the Cook Islands is likely to have eradicated the invasive mynah bird by mid-year but the director of the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust says the biggest threat to biodiversity now is the ship rat.
Atiu in the Cook Islands is on track to be the first Pacific island to eradicate the mynah bird.
The invasive Asian bird species has spread to many countries in the Pacific and the director of the Cooks' Natural Heritage Trust says on Atiu, as on other Pacific islands, the mynah has had a big impact on native bird populations.
Gerald McCormack says it is also scavenges for food in homes and hotels and devours ripening fruit.
An US$80,000 programme using a combination of poisoning, trapping and shooting over five years has brought numbers down from about 6,000 to 200.
Mr McCormack says the mynah was originally introduced to control the coconut stick insect population and if those numbers get too high it can always be reintroduced.
He told Annell Husband he also believes some birds reached Atiu in ship cargo.
GERALD McCORMACK: So there is always that type of thing, especially during a hurricane. Now, during a hurricane I would say, yes, you could end up with one or two mynah birds blown away and ending up on Atiu, and they would need to be eliminated in the future. But as for it reintroducing itself, the evidence we have is that the islands of Mauke, Atiu and Mitiaro are quite close together. They're three islands that are forming their own little subgroup within the Cooks. And mynah birds were introduced to Mauke and Atiu, but never managed to fly to Mitiaro and establish themselves. So that's my only evidence. Even if it's only 40 or 50 kilometres to the next island, it's not normal for a mynah bird to fly that far.
ANNELL HUSBAND: So if those odd ones do come in either by ship or in a cyclone, then you'll be able to stamp them down pretty quickly.
GM: That would be true. In actual fact, on Atiu, now, for ecotourism, which is what the island is putting itself up to be is an ecotourism island, when you walk around that island now and you see something move out of the corner of your eye you look over and you're going to see a kingfisher or a lorikeet or a pigeon - all native birds. Where as before everything that moved was a mynah bird. So it's a total change in the way you feel about the island. On all the powerlines you've got native birds sitting on them, walking along them. You never had that before. So there's been a dramatic change. Even though the numbers of those birds, I don't believe, wouldn't have gone up more than 20% as a result of getting rid of mynahs they are 100% or more than 100% more visible because they're not being harassed. So it's a very dramatic change. But the thing is, the two most precious birds there are the Rarotonga flycatcher, which has a reserve population on Atiu, and the Rimatara lorikeet, which also has now a reserve population on Atiu. These two birds are only on that island because that island does not have rattus rattus [ship rat]. And this is what makes that island unique as a place for putting birds that have a problem with rattus rattus. And that's the lorikeets of Eastern Pacific and it is the flycatcher family, or the monarch flycatchers, of the Eastern Pacific. They are basically going into extinction in this part of the world because of rattus rattus.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: