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Bird species threatened in Samoa

Hunting, loss of habitat and native fruit trees, and invasive species threaten the survival of the manumea – the only species of its kind existing in Samoa. 

This is according to New Zealand-based Ornithologist and Ecologist, Dr. Rebecca Stirnemann, who carried out a seven-year research on the bird and other native species in Samoa. 

From the findings of her research, Dr. Rebecca posed the question why is the manumea declining whereas for the lupe it is still here?

“There are few reasons,” she said.

“One is that the manumea has nests that are quite low, which means cats and rats can get the birds. There are records in the diaries of people who were in Samoa in 1845 about when the cats first came and how they were killing all the manumea, so we know that they were killing a lot of manumea resting in their nests closer to the grounds. And then the manumea eggs are at risk from the rats that eat them.”

Dr. Rebecca said she suspected that hunting of lupes also result in the accidental shooting of the manumea. 

“We did survey across the countries to see where manumea still were, but also to look into where’s the best habitat for manumea, and what we realised is that there’s a lot of forest that’s been cut down or has been logged, so there’s not much really good quality forests left. 

“Manumeas need to be able to move around to the different fruit trees, and they can’t eat any time of fruit, they eat maota, little fruit from the banyan tree, so they have to move all the time even during cyclones. So the loss of habitat is a problem and the loss of native fruit trees as well.” 

Dr. Rebecca said pigs are also a problem to manumea and the maomao, another bird species native to Samoa that she researched on. 

“When I was working on the maomao, we worked a lot in Magiagi for instance, because in the Vaisigano catchment there’s some beautiful forests, they still have manumea and maomao. But the problem there is that they have a lot of pigs. 

“The problem with pigs is that they root up the ground and they stop the new native trees from growing by eating baby trees and they root up the ground causing erosion and then invasive trees move in, and after cyclones more invasive trees move in like rubber trees.” 

Dr. Rebecca encourages the replanting of native trees, and acknowledged the work carried out by the research work partners, Division of Environment and Conservation (D.E.C.) of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.). 

D.E.C. is working in collaboration with the Auckland Zoo to carry out pest control, and Dr. Rebecca said the conservation work carried out on the ground has resulted in the increase in the number of maomao in areas such as Magiagi.

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