Polynesian Megapode (Megapodius pritchardii) off the "critically endange

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Polynesian Megapode (Megapodius pritchardii) off the "critically endangered" list.
From: knightl <>
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2003 20:41:48 +1000


Pacific's last megapode bird declared saved from extinction

SUVA (AFP) Jun 20, 2003
The Pacific's last megapode -- a bird with large feet that uses hot volcanic ash to incubate its eggs -- has been rescued from the brink of extinction, London based BirdLife International said in a statement Friday. Fiji ornithologist Dick Watling found Tonga's Polynesian Megapode or Malau (Megapodius pritchardii) has doubled its population and is now likely to be removed from the "critically endangered" list.

Polynesian Megapodes were native to remote Niuafo'ou in Tonga but became critically endangered due to human harvesting of eggs and predation by introduced animals.

In 1993 a study of the island revealed only around 200 pairs of the birds and so Dieter Rinke of the Brehm Fund for International Bird Conservation in Germany moved the bird eggs to Fonualei Island, 20 hours away by boat.

The two kilometre-wide island was selected because it was uninhabited, little visited by humans and provided the perfect egg-laying conditions for the megapode, which does not incubate its own eggs but lays them in thermally heated soil near volcanic vents.

Watling, writing in the British magazine World Birdwatch, said he had just conducted the first survey in a decade, revealing Polynesian Megapode numbers had doubled.

His visit to Fonualei, funded by the Dutch Van Tienhoven Foundation for International Nature Protection, was the first to gauge the progress of the translocated megapodse.

In 10 hours, the ornithologist observed 56 Malau on a small fraction of the island, and estimated a total adult population of 300-500 birds.

"The establishment of a new population of the Malau on Fonualei is a remarkable conservation success and demonstrates the Tongan Governments determination to conserve its unique wildlife heritage," says Watling.

"This is a wonderful success story for conservation in a region where conservation is only beginning to emerge from the era of rhetoric and paper parks. It is a tribute to vision and action."

Rene Dekker, chair of the World Conservation Union, said the news was spectacular.

"This means that the Malau now occurs on two instead of one island and that the population seems to have doubled in size. I am also very happy that Fonualei is that second island as the species once occurred here and it is marvellous to repopulate it. With these results we will re-evaluate the threat status of the species."

The Malau is a medium-sized, brown-and-grey megapode. It is the only one of several species of megapode originally found in the south west Pacific to have survived 3,000 years of human colonisation and is the smallest megapode in the world.
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