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Manumea under threat of extinction in Samoa

Apia, SAMOA — The cutting of native trees and the existence of invasive species are increasingly putting a threat to the endemic manumea bird population in Samoa.

With the manumea species declining in numbers, the Samoa Conservation Society Environmental and Geographic Information System Specialist, James Atherton said there’s a need to preserve and protect Samoa’s national bird. 

“The manumea is restricted to the deeper native forests. You can find them in pockets in good native forests in Ofato in the center of Upolu, Savaii also has pockets of them,” Mr. Atherton said. 

“But they are becoming more and more restricted to these native patches as the forests are removed for agriculture or invasive species take over the forests.  Manumeas feed on native trees, so where we have trees that are introduced spreading in the forests, reduces the habitat quality for the manumea.”

He said cats and rats are a major impact to the extinction of the iconic bird. 

“So the further you move away from the villages, the less of an impact these invasive mammals have, having said that we have found evidence of cats and rats way in the interior in the center of Savaii, cloud forests you can find cat species and skulls, so they are active even in the remote places in Samoa. 

Rats probably little less so right up in the center of the islands, but cats are found right through the islands.” 

Mr. Atherton told the Samoa Observer that manumea are also accidently targeted by pigeon and flying fox hunters. 

“Samoans traditionally hunt pigeons and flying foxes, which is part of the diet and also the culture to eat pigeon and the manumea being a pigeon is sometimes killed. It’s normally not the target of hunters; they normally do it for the Pacific pigeon or what we call the lupe.”

Mr. Atherton’s message to the community is value our biodiversity as it is part of Samoa’s culture. 

“About one third of our plants and animals are only found in Samoa, but more importantly than that, they are part of the culture ever since people came to Samoa, they have harvested bird, plants for medicinal purposes, house construction, and bird feathers used in ornamentation. 

“We cannot possibly have a living culture without species that culture evolve with and are part of. So our message is more than just saving tree and birds, it’s actually saving the culture.”

Read more at Samoa Observer