Restoring Nu’utele an Nu’ulua’s former glory

An aerial view of Nu'utele Island

The valuable native wildlife of Samoa’s Nu’utele and Nu’ulua islands, is being restored by a partnership of various environmental agencies.

An important first step in restoring the islands to their former glory is to remove the rats, which were brought there by early human colonists hundreds of years ago.

The islands are two of the four which make up the Aleipata islands group and are rich in Samoa’s natural heritage. They are home to the last remaining Friendly Ground Doves, now one of the rarest birds of Samoa but which used to inhabit Upolu. In the early 1990s, biologists identified the forests of Nu’utele and Nu’ulua islands as among the best remaining lowland forests in Samoa.  With lowland forest being the most threatened habitat in the Pacific, work to save this ecosystem in Samoa has become an environmental priority.

Richard Parrish, wild bird capture expert, holding a friendly ground dove during the removal operation

The Rats are killed by baits dropped from a helicopter.

As a safety measure in the Nu’utele and Nu’ulua operation, Friendly Ground Doves were captured and removed first, in case the doves mistook the rat bait for food as they are ground feeding birds.

23 doves are now being held in captivity, and will be returned after the operation when the baits are no longer a risk.
Project Adviser, Dr David Butler said that once all the rats are gone, all the original Samoan species of wildlife will breed much more successfully.