Building community support to search for the
Red-throated Lorikeet in Fiji
LESSONS LEARNED TECHNICAL SERIES
Biodiversity Conservation Lessons Learned Technical Series is published by:
Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and Conservation International Pacific Islands Program
PO Box 2035, Apia, Samoa
T: + 685 21593
Conservation International Pacific Islands Program. 2013. Biodiversity Conservation Lessons Learned
Technical Series 24: Building community support to search for the Red-throated Lorikeet in Fiji
Conservation International, Apia, Samoa
Author: Dick Watling, Fiji Nature Conservation Trust,
Design/Production: Joanne Aitken, The Little Design Company,
Cover Image: Trichoglossus aureocinctus; Charmosyna aureicincta. Artist: John Gerrard Keulemans
(1842–1912). Source: Ornithological Miscellany. Volume 1, via WIkimedia Commons.
Series Editor: Leilani Duffy, Conservation International Pacific Islands Program
Conservation International is a private, non-profit organization exempt from federal income tax under
section 501c(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, Conservation
International empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature for the well-being of
© 2013 Conservation International
All rights reserved.
This publication is available electronically from Conservation International’s website:
Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint
initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement,
Conservation International, the European Union,
the Global Environment Facility, the Government
of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the
World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil
society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.
Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and the Conservation International Pacific Islands Program
(CI-Pacific). The main purpose of this series is to disseminate project findings and successes to a
broader audience of conservation professionals in the Pacific, along with interested members of the
public and students. The reports are being prepared on an ad-hoc basis as projects are completed
and written up.
In most cases the reports are composed of two parts, the first part is a detailed technical report on
the project which gives details on the methodology used, the results and any recommendations. The
second part is a brief project completion report written for the donor and focused on conservation
impacts and lessons learned.
The CEPF fund in the Polynesia-Micronesia region was launched in September 2008 and will be
active until 2013. It is being managed as a partnership between CI Pacific and CEPF. The purpose
of the fund is to engage and build the capacity of non-governmental organizations to achieve
terrestrial biodiversity conservation. The total grant envelope is approximately US$6 million, and
focuses on three main elements: the prevention, control and eradication of invasive species in key
biodiversity areas (KBAs); strengthening the conservation status and management of a prioritized set
of 60 KBAs and building the awareness and participation of local leaders and community members
in the implementation of threatened species recovery plans.
Since the launch of the fund, a number of calls for proposals have been completed for 14 eligible
Pacific Island Countries and Territories (Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Fiji, Niue, Cook Islands, Palau, FSM,
Marshall Islands, Tokelau Islands, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, Eastern Island, Pitcairn and
Tokelau). By late 2012 more than 90 projects in 13 countries and territories were being funded.
The Polynesia-Micronesia Biodiversity Hotspot is one of the most threatened of Earth’s 34
biodiversity hotspots, with only 21 percent of the region’s original vegetation remaining in pristine
condition. The Hotspot faces a large number of severe threats including invasive species, alteration
or destruction of native habitat and over exploitation of natural resources. The limited land area
exacerbates these threats and to date there have been more recorded bird extinctions in this
Hotspot than any other. In the future climate change is likely to become a major threat especially for
low lying islands and atolls which could disappear completely.
For more information on the funding criteria and how to apply for a CEPF grant please visit:
For more information on Conservation International’s work in the Pacific please visit:
or e-mail us at
ABOUT THE BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION
Building community support to search for the Red-
Species Recovery Plan 2013–2017
Kulawai Survey Report January–March 2011
Further Kulawai Surveys 2010–2011
Promoting Awareness of the Red-throated Lorikeet
CEPF Small Grant Final Project Completion Report
Lorikeet was realized, although in the end the bulk of the work was undertaken by highly
experienced bird observers rather than trained community members.
In retrospect, it was probably unrealistic to believe that with the resources the project could
offer, one could train community youth to a level where they could independently undertake
surveys for species such as the Red-throated Lorikeet which is both extremely rare (perceived
situation at the beginning of the project) as well as being extremely difficult to detect (retiring,
crepuscular nature of the bird).
Project Design Process
Aspects of the project design that contributed to its success/shortcomings
Centering the project on the Tomaniivi Nature Club Site Support Group enabled the small
grant resources to be applied immediately to activities with known individuals/communities.
This dispensed with the necessary preliminaries of entry into and getting to know a
new community(s) and their environment. Despite this we underestimated the logistical
requirements (time and cost) of getting community members into the right location to
undertake meaningful surveys for the Red-throated Lorikeet.
On the other-hand the project was flexible enough to switch the survey component to
surveys being done by highly experienced bird observers, such that they were professionally
Aspects of the project execution that contributed to its success/shortcomings
The project was flexible enough to switch the survey component to surveys originally planned
for community members, being done by highly experienced bird observers, such that they were
professionally implemented. This was especially important in that the initial surveys with the
community members did not reveal any Red-throated Lorikeets indicating that a broader survey
effort was required.
Overall the number and location of surveys combined with the experience of the observers
provided a high level of confidence in the ‘negative’ result.
BUILDING COMMUNITY SUPPORT TO SEARCH
FOR THE RED-THROATED LORIKEET IN FIJI
NatureFiji-MareqetiViti is grateful for funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund which
catalysed all the components of this project. Dr Kerryn Herman volunteered her very considerable
expertise to NatureFiji-MareqetiViti which provided a foundation on which the project was able to
build. NatureFiji-MareqetiViti is also very grateful to Vilikesa Masibalavu for the series of surveys he
undertook and to Mark O’Brien and Dick Watling for the surveys which they undertook.
Rochelle Steven added greatly to the project with her survey of community ecotourism potential
and we are grateful to her and Dr Clare Morrison for this important contribution.
The project would not have been possible without the support of the Nadala community and,
in particular, members of the Tomaniivi Nature Club. Kerryn Herman would like to thank Litia
Taubere, Taivesi Saukuru and Meli Naiqama for their help in the field and in the organisation of
her accommodation and general stay in Nadala and the Monasavu, in general; and, to Elizabeth
Kalidredre for her hospitality and warmth.
Other lessons learned
relevant to the conservation community
Although an attractive idea to both the community and the umbrella organisation, expecting
untrained community members to become trained to make useful scientific observations of an
extremely rare and difficult to detect bird, was probably unrealistic. This might be considered
specific to the situation at Tomaniivi, the nature of the bird and the resources available from a small
grant, but it also likely to be true in many similar situations when the competence of communities
to be trained to undertake scientific observations is overestimated.
SPECIES RECOvERy PLAn
Abbreviations & Acronyms
Charmosyna amabilis (E.P. Ramsey, 1875)
None described. Original description appeared in Sydney Morning Herald 28 July 1875, this
antedates Vini (Charmosyna) aureicincta (E.L. Layard, 1875) which is sometimes used for this species
(Peters 1937; Amadon 1942 and others); refer Mayr (1945), Watling (1982).
Biodiversity Conservation Lessons Learned Technical Series
The Kulawai was last assessed by BirdLife International (2012) before the completion of the current
project. Under this assessment the Kulawai qualifies as Critically Endangered because the lack of
recent records, despite considerable survey effort, suggests it has:
more than 50 mature individuals, and at least 90% of mature individuals in one subpopulation;
Past Range and Abundance
Kulawai specimens have been collected from Viti Levu, Ovalau and Taveuni in the past. No
specimens have been collected from Vanua Levu, but that may be because the island has been
very poorly collected (unconfirmed observations have been recorded from Vanua Levu). It has
always been regarded as a rare species although there are 46 specimens in 11 museums around the
world, and 12 specimens were collected during a one-month visit by the US Whitney South Seas
Expedition in May 1925 (Attachment 1).
Recent Range and Abundance
observations by those familiar with the species) on Taveuni or Ovalau. The last specimen collected
on Taveuni was in 1912, and on Ovalau in the 1870s. There is a specimen from Viti Levu taken at
Nadarivatu in 1977 (Fiji Museum – Attachment 1), and photographs taken from Monosavu in the
mid 1970s (see cover page).
Records of observations reported to Dick Watling
for the Kulawai since 1965 are collated in
confirmed, the last being in 1993. Some of the unconfirmed records are accompanied by detailed
field notes and are likely to be good observations.
1 Records are maintained from experienced birders and ornithologists only. Observations are treated as unconfirmed if made without supporting
photographs by: 1) an individual with no or little experience of Fijian birds; and/or, 2) in an area in which they have not previously been recorded.
Table 1: Reported Sightings of the Kulawai (Confirmed (C), Unconfirmed (UC) and Total__15__6__21__3__3__1__1__1'>Total (T) since 1965.
Since 2000 when the IUCN Red Data Listing Threat level was raised from Vulnerable to Endangered
because a lack of observations indicated a decline in the Kulawai population, there have been four
specific searches for the Kulawai by experienced ornithologists. All of these have been unsuccessful.
K.Swynnerton and A.Maljkovic 2001–2002
Between November 2001 and April 2002, Swynnerton and Maljkovic conducted 79 days or part-
days of searches involving 373 man-hours of timed observations in likely Kulawai habitat on Viti
Levu and Taveuni (Swynnerton & Maljkovic 2002). No Kulawai were observed during the three
months of field observations. Trapping for rats was also undertaken and the number of black rats
trapped in montane native forest was similar to numbers known in forests on other tropical islands
where rats threaten endemic bird populations. Evidence collected of mongoose and feral cats
suggested that they have penetrated into the forest interior, and may be a contributing factor to
bird population declines.
v.Masibalavu and G.Dutson 2002–2005
Masibalavu and Dutson undertook 498 hours of further targeted surveys in forest areas on all
four islands where the Kulawai has been recorded (Masibalavu & Dutson 2006). These searches
also failed to find any Kulawai, after which the species’s threat status was re-classified to Critically
Endangered in 2006.
v.Masibalavu and C.Mucklow 2008
Masibalavu & Mucklow (2008) report on 91 hours over 10 days of dedicated survey work between
14 January and 25 January, 2008, in the Nadarivatu area surrounding Mt Tomaniivi and the
Monasavu area. No Kulawai were observed.
natureFiji-Mareqetiviti Kulawai Project 2010–2012
NatureFiji-MareqetiViti (NFMV) received a small grant funding from the Critical Ecosystem
Partnership Fund which enabled dedicated searching for the Kulawai and an attempt to
train community members of NFMV’s Tomaniivi Nature Club to be able to search for the bird
During the 18 month project period (Nov 2010 – June 2012) over 810 hours of searching was
a significant survey was undertaken in the Wainavadu catchment – one of the least disturbed
catchments in Viti Levu. The Kulawai was not observed.
Table 2: Component Surveys of the NFMV Kulawai Project (2010–2012)
9-13 Nov 2010
Nadala, Viti Levu
21-24 Nov 2010
Nature Reserve, Viti Levu
11-13 Jun 2010
Monosavu Dam catchment,
14-16 July 2011
Nadarivatu, Monasavu, Viti
7-10 Sept 2011
Namosi, Naitasiri (Waidina
Rd.), Viti Levu
20-23 Sept 2011
Monasavu, Nadrau, Viti Levu
April 6th – May
catchments, Namosi, Viti
Nadarivatu, Nadala, Nadrau,
Monosavu, Viti Levu
12 hrs (including
training of youth)
Other notable Forest Surveys by Ornithologists with
In the last decade there have been several significant ‘BioRap’ type or EIA baseline forest surveys by
experienced Fijian and visiting ornithologists (with considerable experience in Fiji) are relevant to
the search for the Kulawai. These include:
2002. Waivaka R. catchment, Namosi – ornithologists Dick Watling, Guy Dutson – 54 hrs of forest
survey. No sightings of Kulawai. (Environment Consultants Fiji 2003);
2003-4. Two baseline surveys undertaken in the Sovi Basin for the PABITRA project.
ornithologists – several led by Vilikesa Masibalavu. c.40 hrs of standardised surveys and many
more hours of incidental observations. No sightings of Kulawai. (Morrison 2003, 2004);