2006 – 23-26th May – ornithologists Dick Watling, Alifereti Naikatini camping at the headwaters
of the Wainibau-Wainimakutu River below the Vunitoroilau ridge, Namosi, (Environment
Consultants Fiji 2006);
2008. Nakauvadra Range, Ba – ornithologists Dick Watling, Alifereti Naikatini, Senivilati Vido
– Conservation International BioRap. >100 hrs of standardised and unstandardised surveys +
observation posts in forest and forest edge. No sightings of Kulawai (Environment Consultants
2009. Joske’s Thumb-Waimanu, Rewa – ornithologist Dick Watling – 15 hrs of standardised
survey in forest and forest edge; 15 hours non-standardised observations. No sightings of
Kulawai. (NatureFiji-MareqetiViti 2009);
2010. Nakorotubu – a RAP survey – ornithologists Vilikesa Masibalavu, Alifereti Naikatini. 38 hrs
of forest, forest edge and open surveys. No sightings of Kulawai. (Morrison et al. 2011)
2012 Emalu – Navosa – ornithologists – Alifereti Naikatini, Senivilati Vido – 5 days in the field (25
hrs searching presumed) (IAS in prep).
Summary of Recent Kulawai Searches
In the decade November 2001 – June 2012 a variety of experienced/highly experienced
ornithologists undertook 2096 hrs of either focused searches for the Kulawai, or general forest bird
surveys, without success. This represents 354 days of 6 hrs searching/observation. The Kulawai,
like all of the Charmosyna are unobtrusive and very easily overlooked, even experienced field
observers will likely miss the Kulawai on occasions unless they are specifically looking for them.
The forest survey time is nonetheless sufficient to conclude that the Kulawai is extremely rare, and
consideration be given to a status of extirpated from Viti Levu.
That the Kulawai has become rarer since the 1970s is indubitable and the absence of recent
confirmed observations in the uplands of Viti Levu leads to serious consideration having to be
given to it being extirpated on Viti Levu. It should be noted that the late 1970s and 80’s saw
major changes and developments in the Nadarivatu-Monosavu area with the construction of the
Monosavu dam, the Nadarivatu-Wainimala-Serea ‘cross Viti Levu’ road being constructed, roads
being constructed to nearly all the inland villages; major logging in the area by the Emperor Gold
Mine; and, Nadala/Nadarivatu Forest Reserves being converted to pine/mahogany plantations and
species/ provenance trial sites. At the same time there has been considerable movement out of
villages by villagers to set up settlements or farmhouses along the roads.
Biodiversity Conservation Lessons Learned Technical Series
It is clear that since 1965 about 93% of search time for the Kulawai has been on Viti Levu; almost
sighting) and only two Kulawai-targeted and two general surveys on Taveuni (a total of about 156
hours of survey time). During this period there have been three unconfirmed sightings over the
years from visiting birders). At the same time, and in contrast to upland Viti Levu, there has been
almost no change to the forests of Taveuni over the last 50 years and where there has been change
it has been edge encroachment with the exception of the telecommunication development on Des
Voeux Peak and access road. The vast majority of the forest on Taveuni remains untouched. There
has been insufficient survey work on Taveuni, Vanua Levu and Ovalau to reach any conclusion on
the Kulawai’s status on these islands.
The genus Charmosyna comprises 14 species distributed from Buru Island (Indonesia) in the west
through Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea, Bismark Archipelago, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Santa Cruz
islands and New Caledonia. The Kulawai in Fiji represents the eastern-most range of this genus.
Four species are in the IUCN Red List (2012) as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered. The
New Caledonian lorikeet C.diadema is known only from two specimens collected in 1859 and an
observation in 1913 (Forshaw 1989) and recent attempts to locate it have failed (Dutson 2011). The
blue-fronted lorikeet C. toxopei is only definitively known from seven specimens collected in the
1920s. Recent attempts to locate it failed and recent sightings are considered uncertain (BirdLife
International 2012). Reasons for the decline and rarity of Charmosyna lorikeets are cited variously
as small populations and restricted range, habitat destruction and degradation, avian malaria,
cyclones and invasive species (Stattersfield & Capper 2000).
Ecology of the Kulawai
There is little information on most species of Charmosyna, they are notoriously difficult to find
(Beehler et. al 1986) and characteristically inhabit mountainous regions with high rainfall (Juniper
1998). The information available about the Kulawai is fragmentary and basically speculative.
Although generally regarded as being an inhabitant of mature forest, most observations of the
Kulawai have been at the forest edge or in secondary or degraded forest areas. This may reflect
that they may be easier to observe in such situations. Several Charmosyna lorikeets are regarded
as being highly nomadic and others resident in the highland forests and making nomadic visits to
the lowlands even between islands i.e. the Palm Lorikeet C.palmarum of N.Vanuatu and the Santa
Cruz islands (Dutson 2011). In 1923, ornithologist Casey A. Wood describes Kulawai visiting Suva
“Hypocharmosyna aureicincta, the pretty little Gold-collared Lorikeet, said by Layard to be found
only on Ovalau, Viti Levu and Taveuni, is still seen occasionally on the two last-named islands, but is
now probably extinct on the first. During my residence in Suva, a small flock for several days visited the
garden of Sir Maynard Hedstrom and then disappeared. In Taveuni they are rarely seen away from the
high mountains interior. The five skins in the Tring Museum were collected by T.H. Kleinschmidt in the
interior of Viti Levu about 1872. I am afraid this charming little species is vanishing from Fiji” (Wood &
It may well be that although the recent confirmed observations of the Kulawai indicate that it is not
as refuges from which they visit forest edge and adjacent areas.
All the recent confirmed observations of the Kulawai have been in the highland forests of Viti Levu
and it has been assumed that the Kulawai is now restricted to such high altitude localities. This
would be similar to some of the other Charmosyna and it has been suggested that rats and other
invasive predators may not be so numerous at higher altitudes. Such an ‘altitudinal’ restriction (if it
exists) on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu may be artificial, reflecting the absence of ‘good’ forest, except
at higher elevations. Certainly it has been found at lower elevations previously – all the Ovalau
records are at ‘low elevation’.
With one or two exceptions, confirmed observations of the Kulawai have been made at three
flowering trees – Vuga Metrosideros collina, Drala Erythrina variegata and Drala(wai) E.fusca. The first
of these, Vuga, is abundant in the upland forest areas of Fiji as well as moist ridges in the lowlands
– its flowering season is not well known. It appears to have an extended flowering season with
irregular periods of concentrated flowering. Drala is a common secondary forest and agriculture-
associated tree which has a highly synchronised flowering season in August and a week or two
either side. Dralawai is very local but occurring in some large stands and flowers less synchronously
than Drala – probably July to October.
Observations of the Kulawai have always been in the canopy, often of tall trees where it is usually
extremely unobtrusive and difficult to detect except when actually feeding on the flowers. It is
most often first detected while flying (Watling pers. obs.).
As noted previously the area where the Kulawai is best known from and where a decline is
in development, infrastructure and human presence since 1965. Each of these factors which may
have had a direct impact. Nonetheless there is still much forest in the area which is contiguous
with the remaining areas of undisturbed forest on Viti Levu. Rather than a direct impact, an indirect
impact through an increase in invasive black rats Rattus rattus may well be a more immediate
reason for the decline. Swynnerton & Maljkovic (2003) showed that black rats are present in the
montane native forest there in similar numbers known in forests on other tropical islands where
rats threaten endemic bird populations. It is well known that the small lories and lorikeets of the
Pacific are extremely vulnerable to predation by rats (eg McCormack & Künzlè (1996), Ziembecki
& Raust (2004), Seitre & Seitre (1992) but see Watling (1995) and it is quite possible that black rats
are the immediate cause of the decline in Kulawai in the Nadarivatu-Monasavu area, with black
rats increasing in the area in conjunction with infrastructure development and more widespread
presence of village gardens and farms. This is all just guesswork, however.
Figure 1: Location Map. Islands and localities mentioned in the report (forest cover in green)
favoured by the Kulawai (Photo – Dick Watling-NFMV)
Plate: 2: Characteristic flowering Vuga – Metrosideros collina tree – a common species in highland forest
all over Fiji and down to low elevations on forested ridges (Photo – Vilikesa Masibalavu).
Plate: 3: Drala – Erythrina variegata orientalis. Common tree of
by Richard Parker smallislander on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/
Plate: 5: Dralawai flower Erythrina fusca. Photo
by palmbob. http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/
Plate: 4: Dralawai tree – local tree of wet sites Erythrina
fusca. Photo by palmbob http://davesgarden.com/
Actions to be Defined Accurately?
Very little is known about the Kulawai and it is clearly insufficient to enable detailed objectives to be
drawn up other than to confirm its continued existence and then acquire more basic information.
Recovery Objectives for the Kulawai, Red-throated Lorikeet
The following are the immediate objectives for the Kulawai recovery plan, they are focused
primarily on determining more basic information about the bat on which conservation
management measures could be drawn up:
Phase Confirm the continued existence of the Kulawai (Phase 1);
If Phase 1 successful then Phase 2:
Undertake captive husbandry of the Kulawai in Fiji; and
Attain a good understanding of the ecology and behaviour of the Kulawai; and,
Ensure good public and corporate awareness throughout Fiji of this iconic bird.
CONFIRM THE KULAWAI’S CONTINUED ExISTENCE
The priority location for searching for the Kulawai should now shift from the uplands of Viti Levu to
Targeted surveys in all forest areas on Taveuni for at least a full annual cycle.
Continued surveys in the forests of Viti Levu, Vanua Levu and Ovalau
UNDERTAKE CAPTIVE HUSBANDRY OF THE KULAWAI IN FIJI
Captive husbandry of the Kulawai needs to be developed – at the moment this is only possible at
the Kula Eco Park which is already well established in the captive breeding of Critically Endangered
iguanas. It has some experience in breeding nectivorous lories as the Collared Lory Phigys solitarius
breeds at the facility.
Locate a highly experienced international lorikeet breeding facility to work with the Kula Eco Park
arranging an appropriate association with Kula Eco-Park.
Be prepared to initiate the captive breeding programme as soon as a population is located with
ATTAIN A GOOD UNDERSTANDING OF THE ECOLOGY AND BEHAVIOUR OF
Assess ways to investigate breeding behaviour and ecological requirements of the Kulawai, in order
to better address factors driving the current declines.
Experienced ornithologists to undertake ecological and behavioural studies of the Kulawai when a
population has been located.
Reach a better understanding of the flowering cycle of the Vuga Metrosideros collina.
ENSURE GOOD PUBLIC AND CORPORATE AWARENESS ABOUT THE KULAWAI
The support of Fiji’s wider community for forest habitat conservation and conservation of the
Kulawai is essential to its long term survival. This will not be provided unless there is a good level
of awareness at all levels of Fiji’s wider community about the significance of this iconic bird and its
apparent imminent or recent demise. A good start has already been made through the use of the
name Kulawai for the National Ladies Volleyball team, and this branding should be continued and
Prepare materials on the Kulawai in the vernacular;
Undertake awareness campaigns in schools, communities and the corporate sector.
Figure 2: Kulawai – Logo of the Ladies National Volleyball Team
Organisations Responsible for Conservation
Government lead: Department of Environment, National Trust of Fiji;
Local Conservation Organisations: NatureFiji-MareqetiViti, Institute of Applied Sciences, University
of the South Pacific;
International Organisation: BirdLife International, Conservation International
Other organisations involved: Traditional landowners, Kula Eco-park and experienced Lory/Lorikeet
breeding facility (to be identified).
Staff and Financial Resources Required
Fundraising is to be the responsibility of the lead non-government organisations working in
Fiji – NatureFiji-MareqetiViti (NFMV); Institute of Applied Sciences (University of the South Pacific);
BirdLife International (BLI – Preventing Extinctions Programme) and Conservation International (CI),
together with the National Trust of Fiji.
PHASE 1 PERSONNEL
Local Base and Coordination
NatureFiji-MareqetiViti, the National Trust of Fiji or the Institute of Applied Sciences (University of
the South Pacific) are the potential local bases for the survey and its personnel, and will need to
coordinate the programme at the national, provincial and local levels.
The most important position is the Lead Surveyor who needs to be a highly motivated and very
experienced field ornithologist who has the temperament to work in the field for long periods and
be able to cope with frustrations commonplace in forest field work in Fiji – especially bad weather,
customary protocols etc.
The Local Counterpart needs to be a field biologist preferably one with experience in bird survey
work. The Counterpart needs to be able to deal with all issues relating to customary protocols
and in addition to gaining experience with the Lead Surveyor has the responsibility of working
with local guides and assistants and identifying talented and motivated individuals who have the
potential to become independent Kulawai surveyors.
PHASE 1 FINANCIAL RESOURCES
Table 3 provides the budget for Phase 1 of the Kulawai Recovery Programme
PHASE 2 PERSONNEL AND FINANCIAL RESOURCES
The resources required for Phase 2 are dependent on the outcome of Phase 1 and will be drawn up
after a review of Phase 1.
Table 3: Kulawai Recovery Programme – Phase 1 Financial Resources
18 month Survey Programme
Exchange Rate: 0.565
Unit Cost Number
Project Director: Dick
1.5 months @$5,000/m
Salary: Lead Surveyor
– Experienced field
$2,500 per month – 18
$1,000 per month – 18
400 man days @ $15/day
10 return ferry trips for
10 return plane trips
Field Base Rent Taveuni
12 months @ $300/month 300
200 man/nights @ $20
Field Equipment (Field
Camping Eqpt – normal
4 man team (Surveyor/
counterpart/2 local guides)
Recorders, Playback etc.)
Field team supplies
camping eqpt., field
clothing, fuel, batteries
2 village meetings /field
month @ $30/meeting –
LS or Counterpart
Field Evacuation and
passerine genera. American Museum Novitiates 1176: 1-21.
Beehler, B.M., Pratt, T.K. and Zimmerman, D.A. 1986. Birds of New Guinea. Princeton: Princeton
BirdLife International 2012. Charmosyna amabilis. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Version 2012.1. <
BirdLife International 2012 Species factsheet: Charmosyna toxopei. Downloaded from
Dutson, G. 2011. Birds of Melanesia: The Bismarks, Solomons, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Christopher
Environment Consultants Fiji 2003. Report of the Preliminary Baseline Survey of the Terrestrial Vertebrate
Fauna of the Waivaka Catchment, Namosi, Viti Levu. Report for Nittetsu Mining Co. Ltd., Suva
Environment Consultants Fiji 2006. DRAFT – Environmental Impact Assessment of the Proposed 132
kV Transmission Line – Wailoa to Hibiscus Park. Asian Development Bank, Renewable Power Sector
Development Project ADB TA 4764-FIJ. Suva
Environment Consultants Fiji 2008. Report of a Preliminary Baseline Survey of the Avifauna of the
Nakauvadra Range, Ra, Viti Levu. Report for Conservation International.
Forshaw, J.M. 1989. Parrots of the World. Third (revised) edition. Lansdowne Editions, Melbourne,
Herman, K. J. 2011. Red-throated Lorikeet “Kulawai” Charmosyna amabilis Monasavu-Tomanivi, Viti Levu.
Report from January – March 2011 survey. Unpublished NatureFiji – MareqetiViti Report # MV18:
IAS (in prep.) Biodiversity Survey of the Emalu Forest, Navosa. Institute of Applied Sciences, University
of the South Pacific for GIZ.
Juniper, T. & M. Parr, 1998. Parrots. A Guide to the Parrots of the World. Pica Press, Robertsbridge.
Macedru, K. 2012. Promoting Awareness of the Kulawai, Red-throated Lorikeet Charmosyna amabilis.
An Exhibition of Models and Masi Paintings of Endangered Fijian Fauna at the Fiji Museum and their
Auction for the Project. Unpublished NatureFiji – MareqetiViti Report # MV18: 2012/11, Suva.
Masibalavu, V. and G. Dutson, 2006. Important Bird Areas in Fiji: Conserving Fiji’s Natural Heritage.
BirdLife International, Suva.
Masibalavu, V. and C. Mucklow. 2008. Red-throated Lorikeet Survey January 2008 including
recommendations for future survey work for this Critically Endangered species in Fiji. Unpublished
Report, BirdLife International, Suva.
Masibalavu, V. 2011. Reports of surveys of the Red-throated Lorikeet, Kulawai Charmosyna amabilis with
the Tomaniivi Nature Club, Nadala, Ba, Vti Levu. Unpublished NatureFiji – MareqetiViti Report #
MV18: 2011/12, Suva.
Mayr, E. 1945. The Correct Name of the Fijian Mountain Lorikeet. Auk 62:139-140
Gerald Mccormack and Judith Kunzle (1996). The ‘Ura or Rimatara Lorikeet Vini kuhlii: its former
Morrison, C. 2003. PABITRA Baseline Flora and Fauna Survey of the Sovi Basin, Naitasiri, 5-17th May,
2003. Institute of Applied Science, University of the South Pacific, Suva
Morrison, C. 2004. PABITRA 2nd Baseline Flora and Fauna Survey of the Sovi Basin, Naitasiri, 13-20th
October, 2004. Institute of Applied Science, University of the South Pacific, Suva
Morrison, C., S.Nawadra and M.Tuiwawa (Eds) 2011. A RAP Baseline Survey of the Nakorotubu Range,
Ra and Tailevu Province, Viti Levu, Fiji. RAP Bulletin of Biological Assessment 59. Conservation
International, Arlington, VA, USA
Mayr, E. 1945. The Correct Name of the Fijian Mountain Lorikeet. Auk 62:139-140.
Peters, J.L. 1937. Checklist of the Birds of the World. Vol III. Harvard University Press, Cambridge
Ramsay, E.P. 1875. Trichoglossus (Glossopsitta) amabilis. Nov. sp. (Ramsay). Sydney Morning Herald 28
Ramsay, E.P. 1877a. A new species of Trichoglossus. Proc. Linn. Soc. New South Wales, 1: 30-32.
Ramsay, E.P. 1877b. Remarks on a collection of birds lately received from Fiji, and now forming part of
the Macleayan Collection at Elizabeth Bay; with a list of all the species at present known to inhabit
the Fiji Islands. Proc. Linn. Soc. New South Wales, 1: 69-82.
Stattersfield, A.J. and Capper, D.R. 2000. Threatened Birds of the World. Birdlife International. Barcelona
and Cambridge, U.K., Lynx Editions and Birdlife International.
Seitre, R. and Seitre, J. 1992 Causes of land-bird extinctions in French Polynesia. Oryx 26: 215-222.
Steven, Rochelle 2012. An investigative study into whether the Nadala/Vatumoli area could support
nature-based tourism; and, a survey for the Critically Endangered Red-throated Lorikeet (Charmosyna
amabilis). Unpublished report prepared for NatureFiji-MareqetiViti, Griffith School of Environment
and International Centre for Ecotourism Research, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia
Swinnerton, K. and Maljkovic, A. 2002. The Red-throated Lorikeet Charmosyna amabilis in the Fiji Islands.
Unpublished report to National Trust Fiji, World Parrot Trust and Environment Consultants (Fiji) Ltd.
Watling, Dick 1982. Birds of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. Millwood Press, Wellington
Watling, Dick 1995. Notes on the status of Kuhl’s Lorikeet Vini kuhlii in the Northern Line Islands,
Kiribati. Bird Conservation International 5:481-489
Watling, Dick 2009. Report on the Birds with Particular Reference to Threatened Species of the Joske’s
Thumb forests, Viti Levu, Fiji. Unpublished NatureFiji-MareqetiViti Report, Suva
Watling, Dick 2011. Report on the Birds with Particular Reference to Threatened Species of the Wainavadu-
Waisoi Catchments, Namosi, Viti Levu, Fiji. Unpublished NatureFiji-MareqetiViti Report # MV18:
Wood, C.A. and Wetmore A. 1926. A Collection of Birds from the Fiji Islands. Part III Field Observations
(Casey A. Wood). Ibis 1926:91-136
Ziembicki, M. and Raust, P. (2006). Status and conservation of the Vini lorikeets of French Polynesia.
Report to the Loro Parque Foundation & CEPA. Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie, Papeete,
(from Swinnerton & Maljkovic 2002)
Museums are: Macleay (Sydney), Liverpool (UK), British Museum of Natural History (Tring, UK), Australian Museum
(Sydney), Philadelphia Academy of Sciences (USA), Natural History Museum Vienna (Austria), American Museum of Natural
History (Washington), Delaware Museum of Natural History (USA), Fiji Museum (Suva Fiji), Victoria Museum (Melbourne).