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Saving Fiji's only endemic sea bird

Ana Madigibuli
Saturday, July 15, 2017

Gau Island is known in the world for its efforts to save the endemic Kacau ni Gau or Fiji petrel, Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi —Fiji's only endemic sea bird.

NatureFiji-MareqetiViti is proud of the hardworking team on Gau — all of whom are from Gau Island, led by project officer, Poasa Qalo, from Nukuloa Village.

"In 2015, we brought in Fiji's first wildlife detector dogs, Bob and Tar, to help us search the island more efficiently. The team has discovered what we now know is the world's largest colony of another species of petrel — the collared petrel, (kacau vula, or lagio as it is known in Kadavu), organisation director Nunia Thomas-Moko said.

"In late 2012, we had a breakthrough when a young Fiji petrel crash landed in Nukuloa Primary School, revealing that the most likely breeding time of the bird is in the last 6 months of the year.

"Our team on Gau has a schedule whereby they monitor the collared petrel burrows from January to July; and then conduct cold searches for the Fiji petrel in the second half of the year. We now know how many collared petrels survive and leave their nests successfully in a year. Sadly, we also know how many are killed by cats, which is, on average, 5 to 15 corpses out of the 50-60 active nests per year.

"Locating the nesting grounds of the Fiji petrel remains the prime conservation priority of this species and the only action, once successful which can lead to assured conservation. With the expertise on collared petrel monitoring and colony management on Gau Island, we are confident in the ability of the community to be able to save the Fiji petrel when we do find the nest".

She said current community awareness and participation program will continue in line with funding availability.

"Sadly, our funds for the Fiji petrel are limited. With our partners we continue to seek funds to support the dedicated team on Gau Island.

This is their natural heritage and we must support them for the immense work that they are doing for the Fiji petrel."

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