Near-extinct manumea spotted in Savai'i

Samoa's national bird, the near-extinct manumea, was spotted in Savai’i earlier this month. 

The bird was both heard and seen during a forest survey of Mount Silisili in Aopo in early August, and heard during a survey of Masmasa-Falelima National Park in July. No photographs were taken.

The Samoa Conservation Society (S.C.S.) Vice-President, James Atherton, said he is treating the bird calls alone with some caution, as they can easily be confused with the lupe (pigeon).

But he said he is not surprised to hear there is evidence of the manumea around, despite beliefs that there may be just 150 left alive.

“The more time we spend in the forest the more likely we are to hear the bird,” Mr. Atherton said.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) team that surveyed Mount Silisili both saw and heard the manumea on the summit, which was confirmed by manumea expert, Moeumu Uili. 

In Masamasa-Falelima (also known as Cornwall Park), surveyors from M.N.R.E. and the Secretariat of the Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P.) say they heard the bird. 

The S.C.S., currently undertaking a Save the Manumea Campaign, says the recent sighting is confirmation they are on the right path in working with Aopo villages to conserve the forest and prevent pigeon shootings, which often bring down manumea instead.

“We just need to know more about the sighting at Falelima as we have not heard back on the specifics, and we know in the past there have been confusion between lupe and the manumea so we need to be satisfied it is manumea they heard,” Mr. Atheron said, because the two birds have extremely similar calls. 

“Assuming it’s correct of course it is positive and it is another site for us to look into in terms of our conservation programming to work with those villages that are part of Falelima National Park.” 

The two-week long survey of nearly 6000 acres in Masamasa-Falelima was completed in July, and was the first survey of the land since it was declared a national park in 2007. 

The Ministry of National Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Moafanua Tolusina Pouli, said following the survey, the division can begin drafting a park management plan.

In the wake of Cyclone Ofa in 1990, much of the native forest was destroyed and in its place an invasive tree (siapatua) grew wild, covering some 30 per cent of the previously forested area. 

The rest of the forest has been replanted with native tree species such as malili, tava and asi toa. 

The survey was conducted by Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster, a consultant for the Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change and Resilience Building (P.A.C.R.E.S.).

Moafanua said that as well as finding evidence of the manumea, they were also pleased to note the absence of invasive myna birds.

There were also signs of life of other threatened bird species such as the Samoan white eye, island thrush, many coloured fruit dove, and Samoan whistler.

The national park, as well as an important biodiversity conservation site, is a large carbon sink (an area that absorbs more carbon dioxide than it releases and helps to combat global warming). 

A total area of 2400 metres squared of forest and 55 bird count sites were included in the survey, which covered 24 forest plots as well as the south coast between Fagafau and Falelima villages to the Park edge on Northwest Savai’i in Asau and Vaisala villages.

P.A.C.R.E.S. is a €12 million (T$37.7 million) project for the Pacific delivered by S.P.R.E.P.; the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the Pacific Community and the University of the South Pacific.

The Mount Silisili survey was a combined project undertaken by the M.N.R.E., S.C.S. and Conservation International as part of a national effort to build baseline environment data to study the long-term aspects of climate change. 

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