ENDANGERED BIRD TO BE REINTRODUCED IN COOKS

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By Tara Carr

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Jan. 4) - Unanimous support has been received for the proposed reintroduction of the Rimatara Lorikeet from Rimatara in Tahiti to Atiu in the Cook Islands to establish a reserve population.

At a recent meeting on the island of Atiu, Natural Heritage Trust's Gerald McCormack gave a presentation on the proposed reintroduction.

The meeting gave its unanimous support to the proposal, which already has approval from the government of French Polynesia, the community of Rimatara and the Cook Islands government.

The transfer of birds is planned for April this year, and the next step is a visit to Rimatara in January by Ada Rongomatane Ariki, McCormack and representatives of the Ornithological Society of Polynesia (MANU) to confirm arrangements.

The Natural Heritage Trust, Te Ipukarea Society, MANU, San Diego Zoo and Air Rarotonga are implementing the program.

The primary funding is from the British Birdwatching Fair through the BirdLife International program 'Saving Pacific Parrots'.

McCormack says that the survival of the three lorikeets of French Polynesia and the Cook Islands is dependant on the absence of the predatory ship rat.

The only naturally occurring population of the endangered Rimatara Lorikeet is on the small island of Rimatara, which is still free of the ship rat.

McCormack says Atiu was selected to establish a reserve population because it is still free of rats and it formerly had a natural population of the lorikeet.

Although the lorikeet was formerly on several islands in the southern group, the other islands are not suitable for a reintroduction program because they now have the rat or, in the case of Aitutaki, another lorikeet which would compete for food and nest sites.

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