Pacific islands discuss ways to eradicate myna birds

By Unumoe Esera

APIA: Wednesday 18th July, 2012: Participants from eight Pacific island countries are meeting in Apia for a week to discuss ways to eradicate the myna bird, as it has become an increasing problem for the environment.

“We are here working with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) and some colleagues from New Zealand and elsewhere who have the expertise to deal with invasive species,” said Jamie Copsey, Head of International Training Center for the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

“The participants bring what they know about birds and this helps for capacity building,” he added. It is still early days for the Pacific Islands in terms of dealing with myna birds.

“It is clear though that the Pacific islands are at the cutting edge and are asking the critical questions, such as how do we successfully control and affect local wildlife and I am hopeful they will give plans on how to get rid of, control and eradicate myna birds and I also hope it will be successful,” he said.

Other important issues discussed include the prevention of further spread of the myna bird to the other islands and that people who admired exotic birds should be careful as even that could cause a problem but to stick to what they have got within their own islands such as the endemic birds.

For Samoa, myna birds were introduced as a control of fleas in cattle. Jamie stated that there was very little evidence that they were effective.

He also said that myna birds are quite travelers and can fly a distance of 60 kilometers.

In a presentation by one of the participants from Kiribati, it was known that myna birds were brought into ports by cargo boats and some may have hitch-hiked a ride on these ships.

Asked how Samoa ranks in eradicating the myna birds compared to other Pacific island countries, he said that Samoa is further ahead compared to the other Pacific island countries.

“It is a big issue as the myna bird is well established and it is not an easy job trying to eradicate it.

“I hope the work or ongoing project in Samoa to be more successful,” he said.

The Assistant Chief Executive Officer of MNRE, Faleafaga Tony Tipama’a also gave a rundown of the myna bird eradication project in Samoa.

He said that in 2008, Cabinet approved funding to eliminate this invasive species such as using the humane traps and trialing DRC1339 chemical. The poison baiting operation continued in 2009.

“Samoa is the first Pacific island nation to be leading the way in this type of program. The government has also allocated a special day for the environment with World Biodiversity Day celebrated in May,” said Faleafaga.

Negative impacts of the myna birds

These pests negative impact on the environment include the destruction of crops. For example, breadfruits are eaten by the myna birds. He said that if the myna bird population increases and other bird species also rise they will destroy the environment which will also have an impact on income earning from natural produce. Myna birds also lay eggs in the ceilings and roofs of some people’s houses and roofs and also they also make loud noises while perching on the pulu trees on Beach Road in Apia.

Some of the methods used by MNRE are traps imported from Australia, nets and the DRC1339 chemical used in baits used to lure and kill the myna birds. They also visited areas where the myna birds were nesting and removed the eggs before they could hatch.

He estimated that a total of not less than $10,000 was allocated by the Government for the eradication of myna birds’ project. “It’s not an easy task and the chemical for the baits is expensive and imported from New Zealand as it is not allowed in Samoa.”

As for the old methods of paying members of the public to kill the myna birds is no longer an option as there were strict legislations against the use of firearms that have not been registered. And if they were to consider continuing with that option, they would look to hiring professional shooters as implemented in the Cook Islands.

Faleafaga said that there are over 10,000 myna birds in Upolu and Savaii after their last surveillance. In 2008, the number was over 5,000 birds when the eradication program first started.

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