Flora & Fauna of Norfolk Island

I gave a talk to the Flora & Fauna Society of Norfolk Island on Monday. Led by Margaret Christian, this group has a keen interest in the conservation of the island’s unique species. One of these includes the critically endangered green parrot (Cyanoramphus cookii), a relative of New Zealand’s kakariki. Having dwindled to less than 30 birds on the edge of extinction, the island community and National Park team rallied together and started a comprehensive nest protection and rat control program, which today sees the population rapidly increasing and the rat baiting program expanding to other parts of the island. A team of researchers led by Luis Ortiz-Catedral from Massey University are now intensively studying the parrot species to further enhance its recovery program.

Ranger Joel Christian and Dr. Luis Ortiz-Catedral weigh and measure a chick before it goes into foster care (Photo by Abi Smith)

Margaret Christian has written a wonderful book on Norfolk Island…the birds and in 2005 led the atlas re-survey of Norfolk Island birds, with collaborators including Richard Holdaway from New Zealand, who at the same time was undertaking important paleoecology research in to the island’s history. Margaret’s bird guidebook is one of the best I have ever come across, describing each species and their story. One of these is of the Norfolk Island morepork (Ninox novaezeelandiae undulata), which dwindled to only one known female in 1987 who was supplemented with two males from New Zealand. One of these formed a pair and the population is since also recovering.

A Norfolk Island endemic grey fantail
A Norfolk Island endemic grey fantail reminds me of the biogeographic linkages with New Zealand (Photo by James Russell)

Because of the great success in rat control across the island, its actually very hard to find a rat when you want one on Norfolk Island. Long-standing citizen Beryl Evans came to the rescue with a litter of rats she removed from her house. Beryl is also the most recently published scientist on Norfolk Island with her lifetime’s work tagging Tasman boobies (Sula dactylatra tasmani) in the latest issue of the journal Corella. At the Flora & Fauna Society on Monday evening a vote of acknowledgement was given to Beryl as she recounted stories of almost being washed off Philip Island during cyclones while monitoring the birds. Good job Beryl!

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Meet the Author
Conservation biologist Dr. James Russell works throughout the world on remote islands and other sites to provide conservation solutions by applying a combination of scientific methods. Follow James on National Geographic voices for regular updates on his own work or other exciting developments in island conservation.