Cook Islands Conservation

Cook Islanders have long lived in close harmony with their environment and the islands are regarded as some of the cleanest in the Pacific. The islands support more than 400 plant varieties, among them the moreare frangipani (tipani), bougainvillaea (taria), heliconias (tiare parata’ito), marigolds (merekoro) and the famous gardenia (tiare Maori).

Takitumu Conservation Area
Located on the south-eastern side of inland Rarotonga, the Takitumu Conservation Area covers 155 hectares of upland forest, scrub and fernland, and has played a major role in protecting one of the world’s rarest landbirds, the kakerori (Rarotongan flycatcher) which has now been successfully transferred to the island of Atiu. Takitimu Conservation Area also provides birdwatchers with a chance to see and hear other native birdlife, including the unique i’oi (Rarotonga starling) and kukupa (fruit dove) native birds, and the introduced myna and long-tailed cuckoo (karavia). Takitimu Conservation Area contains 70% of all the plant species found in inland Rarotonga, including the neinei (fitchia), the Rarotongan orchid and the rare ground orchid. If you wish to explore this forest area, you must find an experienced guide to take you through one of the traditional paved tracks. Phone Takitumu Nature Walk, phone (682) 29 906.

REAP - The Save Our Shores/Adopt-a-Beach/Project AWARE campaign
People are encouraged not to litter and to recycle aluminium cans, glass and plastic bottles. Rubbish drums and green recycle bins are located around the island.

Ra'ui Marine Reserves
Ra'ui is a traditional conservation system that prohibits access to allow the rejuvenation of natural resources. Five marine Ra'ui are in place in the lagoon on Rarotonga to protect the marine environment and allow marine plants and animals an opportunity to grow and breed, and to spread to other parts of the lagoon and sea. The total Ra'ui area accounts for about 8% of the reef circumference of Rarotonga. Swimming and snorkelling are permitted in Ra'ui areas but the harvest of marine life, particularly those traditionally used for food, is restricted or prohibited. Markers have been placed on the boundaries in the lagoon to identify the Ra’ui areas. Blue signposts on the roadside also indicate areas under Ra'ui.

  • Tikioki – snorkelling, swimming and glass-bottom boat cruises are popular in this area due to the abundance of wildlife. You can expect to see at least 80 different fish species, numerous invertebrates and more than 30 species of marine plants and corals.
  • Aroko/Nukupure - The most unique feature of this area is the tidal saltmarsh consisting of kiukiu (saltwater paspalum grass) and mauku tatau tai (sedge).
  • It is a breeding ground for several species of fish and crab, and has one of the few remaining populations of a native date mussel species. Rare migratory birds such as the bar tail godwits and sanderlings also use this area.
  • Matavera/Pouara - This area contains various invertebrate reef species including kina/vana (long-spine urchins), rori (sea-cucumber), paua (elongate clam) and ariri (trochus family).
  • Nikao - This reserve includes extensive reef flats that provide an important habitat for marine invertebrates including ariri/ungakoa/trochus, kina, paua, rori, trochus, ungakoa and vana.
  • Kavera – The Kavera Ra’ui is 44.6 hectares and extends from the high water mark to 30m beyond the reef. It includes a popular beach.

Whales
The traditional Maori name for any large whale is To’ora. Humpback whales, famous for their mysterious singing and amazing acrobatics, migrate through the Cook Islands every year from July to the end of October, passing very close to shore. These humpbacks travel more than 6000 kilometres to their tropical breeding grounds across the southern hemisphere (Australia, South America, Africa and the Pacific Islands). Last century the whaling industry exploited the whales for their blubber, which was heated in large iron pots to extract the oil for export. The whaling era is remembered today by the relics on display at the Whale Research & Education Centre. Located within walking distance of town, it is open to the public with educational presentations, films, books and displays. Whales are now protected within the 2 million square kilometre whale sanctuary established in the Cook Islands in 2001. Because the whales come so close to the islands, the best whale watching is from the shore and the reef from July to October. The locals say, 'In the Cook Islands we don't go to the whales, the whales come to us.'