Desperate plea to save national bird

Scientists in Samoa have issued a dire warning about the fate of the national bird, which features on the country's bank notes and coins.

The manumea has been on the brink of extinction for several years, but scientists believe there are now only a few dozen left.

Conservationist Gianluca Serra is leading a team employed by the Samoan hovernment to stop the bird from disappearing.

He told Mandie Sami of ABC Radio the situation was desperate.

“There are probably only a few dozens birds left in Samoa,” he said.

And at this stage, his hopes are fading about being able to stop them from disappearing completely.

“You know our job as conservationists is pretty depressing,” he said. 

“Every year the planet is losing hundreds if not thousands of species. 

“There is not enough awareness and interest by governments and people.

“Public opinion is always interested about cats and dogs but they don’t know that there is wildlife out there and they need help, so it’s really hard.  There’s no money there and only a few people interested in it.”

Mr. Serra has been working for the past year to save the manumea.

“We’re trying to work with the local communities,” he said. 

“During the past year, we’ve discovered some very interesting information about this bird and now we know what we can do to try to save this specie. "

“We know for instance some forests where it can be found.”

Mr. Serra said hunting is a major issue to the manumea’s survival. 

“We realize that they are being hunted by mistake because apparently people don’t like the manumea’s meat but they kill the manumea while they are targeting another pigeon they like so that is the issue and this is enough to be a problem,” he said.

“The other issue is forest logging because it’s a forest bird and other invasive species like rats and cats.” 

So what are the practical steps being taken by Mr. Serra and his team?

 “Well now we know few forest areas where the bird still exists so we have to establish protected areas. 

“It’s not easy because these forests are under customary control so we have to have consultations with the villages, discuss with them, try to convince them to establish protected areas. We also want to convince them to control the hunting somehow so they don’t affect the bird.”  

But he cautions that there is not much time left.

 “Hawaii for instance is an example of how things should not be done,” he said. 

“Despite lots of money, being the U.S, they were too slow to act and as a result they’ve lost so many endemic species." 

“So I’m always sharing with the Samoan authorities to learn from the Hawaii experience where despite lots of money they have lost so many birds. Here in Samoa there’s not so much money.”

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