Atiu is known as "Enua Manu" the land of the birds and was once one of the natural habitats of the "Kura" Rimatara Lorikeets.
Sadly, the birds were hunted into near extinction by locals wanting the bright feathers for costumes and headdresses. Birdlife International, in conjunction with the San Diego Zoo and the governments of French Polynesia and the Cook Islands orchestrated the return of 27 lorikeets to Atiu. You can read the full story here. http://cookislands.bishopmuseum.org/showarticle.asp?id=24
I and my Cook Island husband, Ina recently travelled to Atiu to visit the lorikeets and help search for babies.
Several juvenile lorikeets have been spotted by local bird watching guide George Mateariki, better known as Birdman George but none have been photographed to date. We arrived on Air Rarotonga and recieved a fresh flower lei greeting and were whisked off to the Are Manuiri Guesthouse.
Birdman George gave us the full tour to see many Atiuan bird species, such as the fruit dove,
the rare kakerori flycatcher
and the Pacific kingfisher.
We finished the tour with a visit to the banana plantation where the lorikeets are frequently found. There are only 23 on the whole island because 4 of them flew to a neighbor island-Mitiaro, so it is miraculous to see 5 lorikeets flying in the trees and feeding on banana flowers.
The next day, we went to a grove of trees and saw more lorikeets overhead, 4 in all.
After spending time with the lorikeets, we were shown the plaque commemorating the occasion and dedicated to the queen of Rimatara-Temaeva who protected the lorikeets from being hunted and the queen of Atiu-Romgomatane who gave the lorikeets a new home and promised to keep them safe.
Judging by the boisterous behaviour of the lorikeets and obvious pair bonding, it shouldn't be too long before we see some baby Rimatara lorikeets on Atiu!
Dance champion George Mateariki dedicates his performance to the lorikeets.
Tara competes in the Papa'a dance competition and also dedicates her performance to the lorikeets. She got second place.