In April 2015 I was contacted by a contemporary at the University of Aberdeen in the 1970s. Dave Butler, now based in New Zealand, was concerned about a small number of mynas living in Kiribati, an archipelago of atolls that straddles the equator in the central Pacific, and was seeking advice on how they might best be removed. Common Mynas are known to take eggs, chicks and sometime attack adults of indigenous birds and can pose a threat to the survival of some island species.
Four mynas, three Common Mynas and one Jungle Myna, were known to be present in Betio, an industrial suburb and the port area of the country’s capital, South Tarawa. After prolonged negotiations, Dave secured authority from the Kiribati authorities to enable him to employ a New Zealand marksman armed with shotgun and silenced air rifle to attempt the eradication of these four birds. This importation was complicated by the need for the hunter and weapons to transit through Fiji, for which further authority was needed.
During his first day on the island the hunter shot two Common Mynas and the Jungle Myna, and on the following day he shot the remaining Common Myna.
Congratulations to Dave, especially for his perseverance in negotiations with the relevant authorities, and of course to the hunter and all others who facilitated this operation. This action has ensured that a breeding population has been prevented from establishing on the island and that no birds survive to mate with any further arrivals. The operation has also demonstrated the efficacy of shooting in removing small populations of these invasive birds, where it is safe to do so. Safety relates to human presence but also to risk of flock members learning to avoid people with guns; shooting is not advised when large numbers of mynas are present.
Nevertheless, as with all eradication programmes, vigilance will be needed to detect any further arrivals so that they can be eliminated as soon as possible.