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Marine Park - Coral reef survey
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Te Ipukarea Society BirdLife Arcadia Report 2014-15
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Te Ipukarea Society BirdLife Arcadia Report 2015-16

Biodiversity Projects

- Year of the Coral Reef Campaign
- Publication of Baby K’s Secret Valley – a children’s book about the Rarotonga Flycatcher
- Working with Takitumu Conservation Area to protect the endangered Rarotonga Flycatcher-an endemic bird (global population in 1989 29; current population 300+)
- Bird surveys and rat eradication programmes on Suwarrow to protect globally significant populations of seabirds
- Longline and purse seine fishing Awareness Campaign “Te Ki o to Tatou Moana ei Angai rai ia Tatou” (Our ocean of fish is for the sustenance and nourishment of our people)
- Survey of the endemic Rarotonga Starling
- Supporting the translocation of the Rimatara Lorikeet
- Assessment of the impact of the Mynah bird on the endemic Mangaian Kingfisher
- Supporting and working with Cook Islands Whale Research, Cook Islands Whale and Wildlife Centre, Titikaveka Growers Association, Takitumu Conservation Area, Natural Heritage Trust, Cook Islands Voyaging Society.
- Save Our Suwarrow campaign to maintain Suwarrow Atoll as a National Park
- Production of Suwarrow documentary and Mauke Island Memories documentary, recording traditional knowledge
- Survey of seabirds in the northern group islands and assessment of Invasive Alien Species
- Identification of Cook Islands Key Biodiversity Areas and Important Bird Areas
- Marine Park project management

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On the 21st June 2018 our Suwarrow team returned to Rarotonga after spending six weeks on the atoll, which is also our country’s only National Park. The team carried out a rat eradication on selected islets and carried out bird surveys throughout all the islets on Suwarrow.

This is the third attempt to remove these persistent invasive rodents from the atoll since 2003. The last baiting was in 2013, and at that time rats were successfully removed from Anchorage, the main motu (islet) where the National Environment Service (NES) rangers are based, and also where the visiting yachts anchor. Unfortunately a few rats survived on Motu Tou, and these had increased to the maximum carrying capacity for the motu.

After the first round of baiting the team had to wait another 10 days before doing a second round of baiting on Motu Tou and the 2 Kena Motu. During this time they conducted bird surveys right around the atoll.

A notable find on all the motu were the high number of fish aggregation devices that were found washed up, with more than 50 being found. Many of these
still had their locator beacons attached. This large number suggests that the estimate of 100,000 of these FADs, set by purse seine fishing boats and drifting around in the West and Central Pacific Ocean is no exaggeration. The team found two
FADs with the remains of dead turtles entangled in the netting. Together with these more than 50 FADs was a very large amount of other abandoned fishing gear including buoys, nets, lines and ropes. Plastic bottles and other plastic rubbish was everywhere on all the motu.

The team would like to thank the Cook Islands Global Environment Facility Small Grant Programme (GEF-SGP) for providing much of the financial support for the project, along with Birdlife International for their further technical and financial support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and David and Sarah Gordon.

Marine Park

In August 2012, the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands (Henry Puna) announced the establishment of a 1.1 million square kilometre multiple-use marine park. that would cover half of our exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Once up and running, the Cook Islands Marine Park (CIMP) will be the largest in the world. TIS is working with government agencies and Traditional Leaders to ensure that communities throughout the Cook Islands are consulted about the Marine Park and have an opportunity to provide input to how they would like their Marine Park to look. TIS will also support a legal analysis to determine how the Marine Park might be legally designated in accordance with existing legislation. The benefits of marine conservation will be promoted and the public will be engaged in discussion about the Marine Park.

Mangaian Kingfisher

The Tanga’eo or Mangaian Kingfisher is found nowhere else in the world but the island of Mangaia. The Mangaian Kingfisher Project aims train young people on the island to learn what this species needs to ensure it’s survival.


In the 1960’s the island of Suwarrow was declared a National Park. However in the ‘90s the Government of the day, set up the Suwarrow Development Company, with the intention to commercialise the island as a base for fishing processing and also setting up a pearl farm.

TIS contested this proposal vigorously with the Save Our Suwarrow campaign and were successful in preventing any development. TIS has since assisted NES (National Environment Service) in training caretakers, assisting with bird surveys and a rat eradication programme.

Dubbed the “jewel of the Cook Islands” this IBA (Important Bird Area) still requires ongoing vigilance in maintaining its National Park status. It is known that more distant fishing vessels shelter in the lagoon especially when the caretakers are off island during the cyclone season and there is always concern about visitors over-harvesting the endangered crabs and birds. TIS is developing a biosecurity plan for Suwarrow in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Customs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration and the National Environment Service

The team in Suwarrow

Suwarrow is the Cook Islands first National Park established in 1975. Suwarrow is special for its abundance of wildlife including fish and coconut crabs. It is also a sanctuary for marine turtles and seabirds. Suwarrow’s wildlife was under threat in 1998 when it was proposed that 100 people be stationed on the atoll to work on government-run pearl farms. TIS was concerned for Suwarrow’s wildlife and environment and brought the project to the attention of the public who overwhelmingly opposed the development proposal. A petition coordinated by TIS collected 2,000 signatures nationally. The project was subsequently abandoned by the government.&

Waste Projects

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In 1996 we established the first Recycling Centre on Rarotonga behind the old “Bond” store at the current location of the CITC supermarket in Panama. We invited all recyclers to operate at this central location and we ran the first Cook Islands “Clean Up the World” campaign to promote “Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. TIS members coordinated the campaign with uniformed organisations in each village. Later, WWF, and then the National Environment Service coordinated annual Clean Up the World campaigns. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Planning are now managing the landfill and NES in association with WATSAN and private contractors are promoting recycling.

In 1998 it was estimated that over 2 million (2,000,000) plastic bags are used in the Cook Islands. With the help of our Patron Karika Ariki Margaret Taripo, TIS established a partnership with the Cook Islands Girl Guides to sew cloth bags. These were sold for use as shopping bags in place of plastic bags. Sales of the cloth bags went well and awareness was raised but more needs to be done to encourage people to develop a habit of using cloth bags. TIS continues to promote the use of cloth bags and supports the “Say No to Plastic Bags” campaign by the National Environment Service.

TIS were the national coordinators for the Greenpeace regional petition against the trans-shipment of nuclear waste through the Pacific. We collected 3,000 signatures in 3 days, country-wide.

Alanna Smith at Titikaveka Collage

Reducing the amount of organic waste being burnt or sent to the local land fill just got more innovative through the beneficial processes that compost bins and worm farms possess.

Te Ipukarea Society are currently making their way through all primary and high schools on Rarotonga to conduct worm farm and compost bin trainings on how to look after and maintain a healthy worm farm and compost bin system.

Trainings have been taken to with a lot of interest from both teachers, students and the local community who are wanting to learn more, along with how to own a system of their own.

Once all schools on Rarotonga have been covered the trainings will then start within the outer island schools.

Ecologically Sustainable Development Projects

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Advocates present seabed mining petition and legal opinion at the Pacific Islands Forum, August 2012. Image: Cook Islands News

Since the 1960’s research vessels have excited the Cook Islands to mine poly-metallic nodules, containing nickel, cobalt, copper and manganese. lying on our seabed. The major challenge for developers is that there is no economically viable method of collecting the nodules because they lie over 4,000m on our deep ocean floor. The Cook Islands public are concerned that this mining has not been tried before and there is insufficient data as to the impacts on the environment and biodiversity. TIS highlighted the issues of Seabed Mining first in the 1990’s with public meetings, and a media awareness campaign.

In the past five years the subject has been revisited by Government as the answer to our economic woes, but TIS has maintained a strong stand In September 2012 TIS presented a motion to the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) urging nations to proceed with caution. The motion was passed by a significant majority of government and NGO members of IUCN.

Tourism is the most successful industry in the Cook Islands with a 6% annual growth rate (2011/2012). TIS has always been supportive of green tourism initiatives, and has implemented projects promoting sustainable practices and training businesses how to green their business operations. Sadly the tourism industry as a whole has implemented few strategies to ensure our infrastructure keeps up with the ever-increasing tourist numbers. With the revamping of a Tourism Accreditation Scheme, there is a renewed focus on environmentally sound practices for all tourism operators. This is viewed as a good first step In 2011, TIS prepared a paper on visitor numbers and the effects on the environment and submitted this to the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, the agency that recommends tourism policies to government. There is yet to be a response from the Tourism Corporation outlining how the industry will support government to address the issues raised in the report. In September 2012 one of our executive members was appointed to the Tourism Accreditation Board.

Purse Seine Fishing

Te Ipukarea Society has been monitoring government policy on the offshore fisheries industry and the licensing of long line fishing.

vessels. TIS has concerns over the close relationship between the government fisheries regulatory agency (the Ministry of Marine Resources) and a foreign fishing association and the lack of transparency regarding the terms and conditions of licenses issued. TIS is also concerned with the MMR policy to increase fishing activity when other Pacific Islands countries are adopting more conservation measures and scientists have recommended that fishing effort be reduced for one species. Initially, TIS brought these concerns directly to the attention of the Ministry of Marine Resources but when these concerns were ignored TIS raised the issue in the media. TIS continues to provide feedback on government fisheries policy including the draft offshore fisheries policy and the National Plan of Action on Sharks. TIS also monitors fisheries regulations, despite never being given the opportunity to comment on these regulations before they are passed.

TIS developed the Interim Waste Management Strategy with tourism properties. This was followed by the Tourism Accreditation Scheme. We also assisted with the development of Environmental Guidelines for Tourism Accredited properties and taught environmental awareness courses at the Hospitality and Tourism Training Centre.

Youth Projects

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As well promoting ecological consciousness amongst the youth of the Cook Islands, the TIS youth programme will support those young people with a keen interest in conservation work to become leaders of their peers.