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The island paradises of Atiu and Rimatara share many things: fine tropical weather, abundant vegetation, wonderful cultures, and hospitable communities. Most importantly, they once shared a common bird. The Cook Island Maori on Atiu call the bird kura and the Polynesians on Rimatara call the bird ‘ura. Western science calls the bird Rimatara lorikeet or Kuhl’s lory Vini kuhlii. The kura became extinct on Atiu 200 years ago. The Maori royalty so coveted its spectacular plumage for adornment that it was hunted to extinction. But two weeks ago, we helped change this story, and now the bird can once again be seen on Atiu

release ceremony                         
photo by Jenny Elliott

Through the generous cooperation of the Rimatara people and the French Polynesia government, and in collaboration with the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust, 27 ‘ura were taken from Rimatara and flown to Atiu where they were released and changed their citizenship to be called kura. Staff from CRES had the honor of helping to collect the birds using mist nets, caring for the birds in quarantine, and evaluating the birds’ condition to ensure that only healthy birds were taken to Atiu. The effort was a complete success. All the birds ate well, maintained weight within reasonable limits, and flew well upon release. What a relief to see the birds fly in their new home, cheered on by enthusiastic Maori chants wishing them well, a long life, and many chicks! (Alan is picture here with Queen Rongomatane Ariki and one of the 27 translocated birds.)

CRES staff is planning to return in the coming year to survey the island for kura to document survivorship and hopefully reproduction, the ultimate goal of a successful program. A fine sight it will be to see the kura once again established on Atiu.

Alan Lieberman is a conservation program manager at CRES.

Link to Alan's blog with updates on the lorikeets 

The story of Tara's visit to the Kura Lorikeets on Atiu can be found on the Ecotourism page.

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