Coral moonscapes and cool tropical trade winds
Thursday May 9, 2013
[From the trip BirdLife Suwarrow Rat Eradication Project]
The latest blog from wildlife filmmaker Nick Hayward as he joins a team from BirdLife and Te Ipukarea Society (BirdLife in the Cook Islands) eradicating rats from Suwarrow – a seabird mecca in the South Pacific. Today the team reclaim their machete from a robber crab and enjoy the ‘modern’ comforts of Anchorage while contemplating a new departure date.
Motu Tou and neighbouring Motu Kena have been successfully treated with their first application of rat bait. There will be a second in seven day’s time. If we miss a single rat the whole operation and two years of careful planning could be wasted.
The application of bait is the culmination of all the hard work cutting the tracks and preparing the bait stations. This very thorough preparation is the key to a successful operation as previous successful invasive species eradications across the Pacific by BirdLife have indicated.
By now Motu Tou has become almost a second home with the team camping there overnight during the track cutting.
I can report that coconut crabs continue to be a nuisance. One morning Sia’s machete had disappeared. It eventually turned up deep inside a bush where it had been hidden and snacked on by the crabs.
Camping on the beach on Tou, I felt cold for the first time on Suwarrow with the southeasterly trade winds blowing in from the sea. The bright clear night was lit by streaks of shooting stars. They shone momentarily as straight lines pencilled across the deep black of a dark night. High in the sky, the Southern Cross pointed the way home to Rarotonga. It made us all think of home and the loved ones we have left behind.
With these thoughts in mind, we heard the Vaka (boat) was scheduled for a 14th of May departure. A bit of a surprise as we thought it was leaving on May 11. Let’s hope they can make a speedy voyage so we return on time.
Our main home on Suwarrow is Anchorage. Harry and Ngatupuna, the rangers, have been working hard cleaning up the site and it’s looking very smart for the opening of the park on the first of June. Here we have a flush toilet, electric lights (courtesy of the generator) and enough water for a bucket shower. True luxury.
Suwarrow is a beautiful Pacific atoll but it does have a hard edge. When the tide recedes it reveals a large expanse of jagged coral reef. As the midday sun beats down it becomes a scorching barren moonscape. Dazzling bright on the eyes and hard on the feet.
Tomorrow the plan is to bait Anchorage, we then require three rain free days so the bait isn’t spoiled. The forecast is looking good
BirdLife International is a global Partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. They're the World's largest partnership of conservation organisations.
The BirdLife Pacific Partnership comprises a network of six national conservation organisations as follows: BirdLife Australia – Australia; Te Ipukerea Society – Cook Islands; Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie Manu – French Polynesia; Société Calédonienne d'Ornithologie – New Caledonia; Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society Inc – New Zealand, and; Palau Conservation Society – Palau. Together they are tackling the biggest threats to the region's threatened wildlife such as invasive species, habitat loss and climate change.
Acknowledgements: The expedition to remove rats from Suwarrow National Park is a joint project between BirdLife International, Te Ipukarea Society (BirdLife Partner in the Cook Islands) and the Cook Island National Environment Service. The project is being kindly supported by the European Community, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, SPREP, GEF and Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, and forms part of the BirdLife Invasive Alien Species Programme which is tackling this greatest of threats to wildlife around the world. BirdLife wishes to thank the efforts of many who are supporting the programme including Pacific Invasive Initiative, Pacific Invasive Learning Network, New Zealand Department of Conservation the University of the South Pacific, Landcare Research New Zealand, Island Conservation, Wildiaries and Nick Hayward. The BirdLife Invasive Alien Species Programme urgently needs your support to tackle more sites and save more species. To support our work and make a donation today, please go to www.justgiving.com/BirdLife-invasive-species. Thank you.