Posted on: 15 Oct 2016
In August, the conservation of Rarotonga Flycatcher – locally known as Kakerori – got a boost through hands-on training of local staff from visiting predator-control specialists from New Zealand.
Te Ipukarea Society project officers Liam and Alanna got up close and personal with the rare birds in the Takitumu Conservation Area (TCA), where they joined staff of New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC) as they traversed rat-baiting tracks, which are crucially important in keeping rat populations low enough to ensure Kakerori’s survival. The two young officers learnt valuable techniques from the New Zealanders, including the setting up of mist nets and learning how to catch, measure, weigh and ring the birds, before releasing them back into the forest.
Kakerori is the main character in an inspiring Cook Islands conservation story. It was formerly common around Rarotonga, yet by the 1900s it was assumed to be extinct. However, in the 1970s and 1980s, surveys found that Kakerori persisted in small numbers on the southern side of Rarotonga.
In the spring of 1987, Rod Hay and Hugh Robertson from New Zealand and Cook Islands biodiversity expert Gerald McCormack launched the Kakerori Recovery Programme, under the auspices of the Cook Islands Conservation Service, with volunteers. The first two breeding seasons established that a total population of 38 Kakerori were restricted to an area of about 150 ha in the headwaters of adjacent valleys, and that their eggs and nestlings were being destroyed by rats, the most common being Black or Ship Rat. That population decline was very much accelerating.