Goats and rats have been removed from two Fijian islands in a joint operation conducted by BirdLife International’s Fiji Programme and the National Trust of Fiji aimed at protecting unique wildlife on Monuriki and Kadomo.
“This is a massive achievement which will provide benefits for the iguanas, birds, plants and people of these islands”, said Sialesi Rasalato from BirdLife International. The Mamanuca island chain is a well-known tourist destination and nationally important for some unique and threatened wildlife. The islands of Monuriki and Kadomo are among Fiji’s most critical islands for burrowing seabirds and endemic iguana.
Monuriki was the location for the Tom Hanks film Cast Away which depicts his successful attempts to survive on the island following a plane crash. In real life, the 41 hectare island is home to less than a hundred Critically Endangered Fijian Crested Iguana Brachylophus vitiensis which are found on only a few islands, in the dry western side of the Fijian archipelago.
Both Monuriki and Kadomo also provide vital habitat for nationally significant breeding colonies of Wedge-tailed Shearwater Puffinus pacificus. Thousands of the fish-eating seabirds have excavated burrows across the islands in which to rear their chicks, and can be heard making their strange ‘baby-crying’ calls after dark.
In 1999 and 2003, the National Trust of Fiji surveyed a few islands in the Mamanuca Group detecting a rapid decline in the iguana population as a result of major habitat degradation by goats. In 2009, BirdLife International undertook surveys that showed that rats and goats were also posing severe threats to the breeding seabirds on both islands.
“We also intend to work with the landowners in developing projects that enable them to benefit from the islands natural resources in a sustainable way such as through eco-tourism”, noted Elenoa Seniloli of BirdLife International. This is the 12th successful island restoration programme completed by the BirdLife International Fiji Programme.
See article with video of rat eradication/bird restoration process on the island of Suwarrow in the South Pacific.
See article with video about Birdlife’s Pacific Island partnerships program for native wildlife restoration.