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Kuhl’s Lorikeet

 (Vini kuhlii)
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© Phil Bender

Project Status: Completed | 2007 - 2012

Collaborators

San Diego Zoo’s Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES), Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust, Lory Conservation Network

Endangered island lorikeet on edge of survival

Kuhl's Lorikeet (Vini kuhlii) is Endangered in the wild due to past exploitation for its red feathers. Modern threats include predation by rats and trapping for the wild bird trade.

Project progress: Beginning in 2007 the Trust took part in the conservation of this lorikeet by:

  • Financing the transfer of the birds through its Action Grants Programme
  • Supporting studies on the effects of feral Myna bird populations on the species
  • Funding the population census for 2011

Outcomes: In 2007, through the generous cooperation of the Rimatara people and the French Polynesian government, and in collaboration with the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust, 27 Kuhl's Lorikeets were taken from Rimatara and flown to Atiu where they were released. Staff from the San Diego Zoo and its Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES) helped to collect the birds with mist nets, cared for the birds in quarantine, and evaluated the birds' condition prior to release. Recent reports indicate that flocks of the lorikeets are seen every day and breeding attempts have been observed.

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IUCN/CITES Status: Endangered / Appendix II

Wild population: 2000, decreasing.

Where found: Rimatara and possibly Tubuai, or Austral Islands, C Polynesia. Introduced to Washington, Fanning and Kiritimati Islands in the Line Group, Kiribati. Recently reintroduced to Atiu in the Cook Islands.

History: Before Europeans arrived Kuhl’s Lorikeet (Vini kuhlii) lived on several of the Southern Cook Islands and Rimatara, a nearby island in French Polynesia where there is presently a population of about 1000 birds. Another approximately 1000 birds live in the northern Line Islands of Kiribati, where they were introduced in prehistoric times. Birds were recently reintroduced to Atiu (Cook Islands). Their prehistoric extinction in the Cook Islands was a result of exploitation for their red feathers. A significant present-day threat is the Black Rat, Rattus rattus.

Threats:

  • Exploitation for its red feathers on the Cook Islands
  • Predation by Black rats, Rattus rattus
  • Trapping for the wild bird trade
  • Nest competition and disturbance from the Common Myna Acridotheres tristis

Ecology: Kuhl's Lorikeet is found on several Pacific islands – Rimatara, possibly Tubuai, Washington (Teraina), Fanning and Kiritimati in Polynesia and the Line Group, Kiribati. It prefers mixed horticultural woodland, forested valleys growing coconuts, and ground habitation. On Teraina Island it is confined to coconut plantations. This lorikeet was also recently reintroduced to Atiu in the Cook Islands.  They prefer socializing in pairs or small flocks and are often seen flying above palm treetops, where they also take nectar and pollen as their main food.

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