One of the main products of the “Conservation in the Cooks: Setting Priorities, Building Capacities project” will be a directory of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) in the Cook Islands. IBAs and KBAs mark the places on earth that have global importance for conservation. IBAs and KBAs must meet one or more of the following criteria:
- They contain threatened species listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable.
- They contain species that have a restricted range e.g. endemic species that are found only in that geographic location and nowhere else in the world.
- They contain globally significant congregations of species e.g. a large proportion (1%) of the global population of
- They contain a large proportion of a group of species restricted to a particular biome or subdivision of it (a biome is any major regional biological community such as that of a forest or desert)
Already, the draft IBA/KBA directory shows that many of our islands comply with at least one of these criteria. Suwarrow has globally important populations of Sooty Tern, Red-Tailed Tropic Bird and Lesser Frigatebird.
Atiu has an endemic swiftlet, the kopeka, and species endemic to the Cook Islands such as the Rarotonga Flycatcher, the Cook Islands Fruit Dove and the Ngaputoru Pandanus. Recently, the Rimatara Lorikeet (Kura) was reintroduced to Atiu. These species make these places globally important sites of biodiversity. By identifying them as IBAs or KBAs, they will become global priorities for conservation. This identification process is helped substantially by the Cook Islands Natural Heritage database and with funding from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) obtained with the help of Birdlife International. The project also supports the employment of our Programme Manager and builds capacity of Te Ipukarea Society through training, organizational planning, part-time field assistants, and expenses incurred through awareness-raising. We are eternally grateful for the assistance that CEPF has provided us.