HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 592: 30 November 2011

By boat for the birds
When Ian Karika and Joe Briden (of NES) set sail north to conduct a survey of birds in the northern group, they did not count on the engine of their chartered fishing vessel ceasing up on arrival at Penrhyn, just the second stop on their survey.
The Penrhyn drama however, followed the first incident when not far off Aitutaki on the way north, the vessel began taking on water and with Ian and Joe baling out water, had to return to Aitutaki for repairs.
Speaking to the Herald on Tuesday, Ian said 50 days were allocated for the project and he chartered a fishing boat from Aitutaki for the trip north. He and Joe departed Aitutaki on 22 August 2011 but after just 8 hours at sea, the vessel “Orongo” began taking on water at the rear. They were forced to return to Aitutaki and three weeks were spent repairing the vessel.
They set sail on 12 September and after three and a half days reached Manihiki.
At Manihiki, 12 days were spent surveying the bird life. They then set sail for Penrhyn.
On arrival at Penrhyn, the engine failed after tying up at the wharf. The engine ceased up. The bird survey was carried out over 14 days. The police patrol boat Te Kukupa arrived and Joe returned to Rarotonga on the patrol boat.
Ian stayed on in Penrhyn another three and a half weeks while the Orongo’s engine was being fixed. With the engine working again, the arrival of the vessel “Kwai” proved timely.
With Ian and a crew member from the Kwai on board the Orongo, the Kwai provided an escort back to Aitutaki via Rakahanga and Manihiki.
As to the bird life on the two islands surveyed, Ian said overall, birds were in abundant numbers.
On Manihiki, eight various types of sea birds were surveyed and found to be in good numbers. This was probably partly due to the locals eating less birds and bird eggs.
On Penrhyn there were good numbers of birds in the colonies. Harvesting of Boobies was reduced but a decline was noticed in Sootie Terns probably because its eggs were popular with locals. There was only one nesting colony of the Terns compared to 3-4 several years ago. Frigate birds were in abundance but their nesting spots were still a mystery. There were big numbers of tropic birds and a new find was a Masked Boobey.
One species was not found on Penrhyn and it was the Blue Grey Boobie. It is only seen at the lake in Mangaia.
Being on Penrhyn for three and a half weeks, Ian said hardship was noticeable. People were mainly thinking about their welfare. The basics of sugar, rice and flour were in short supply. People tended to store goods, rice in particular. If there was no petrol, no-one went fishing.
He said people were not concerned about such things as MP’s travel. People were thinking only about when the next boat was coming.
There were many empty houses. It was estimated that one third of the people who came to Rarotonga for Te Maeva Nui, did not go back. Most people on Penrhyn either got the pension or had a government job. He estimated the present population at less than 140 persons.
Ian said he was presently preparing a report on the survey for sending to “Bird Life International.”
He acknowledged the major sponsors, “David and Lucille Packard Foundation” and the “Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund.”
He said he also wanted to acknowledge Barbara Lawson, SPREP and the NES for their help and also the people of Penrhyn who assisted him.
Ian said the islands of Rakahanga, Pukapuka and Nassau remained to be surveyed and next time, he would look to charter a vessel which had sails. -Charles Pitt

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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