On 12 May Christine, Bethan, Sarah and I arrived by boat from Mahe to North Island to commence the new myna eradication. The process is being funded jointly by the island and by Green Islands Foundation, with administrative support on the island by its conservation officers, Chris (“CJ”) Havemann and Tarryn Retief, and from GIF by Arjan de Groene and Jennifer Appoo.
The main method to be used is trapping, using specially-made traps that contain live decoy mynas in a central compartment and four catching compartments surrounding the decoy. We had arranged that sections of wire mesh, from which the traps are made, had been cut to size prior to our arrival. This enabled us to begin trap construction immediately and by the end of our first day we had two traps in operation. Further construction has been rapid but delayed periodically by a shortage of components like cable ties and specific requirement for galvanised wire. This has led to urgent requests to GIF and North Island’s office on Mahe for materials to be put on the next supply boat to North; GIF and North Island are proving extremely proficient in this procurement and delivery.
Mynas that have been captured early in the trapping programme are used as live decoys to attract free-living mynas into the traps. In addition, some other mynas are retained in small holding cages to provide decoys for traps still in the construction line. Decoy mynas have to be kept in good condition and, thanks to the kitchen staff in the village, we are able to provide the captive birds with rice, fish and some meat, along with water, twice daily. When necessary, traps are also cleaned. This maintenance of the health of the decoy birds is one of the most time-consuming activities of the eradication.
We learned from the successful eradication of mynas from Denis Island the value of collecting data from the killed birds. We are therefore weighing and measuring all mynas caught and determining the sex (by dissection) and age (based on head plumage, iris colour and bill colour) of each individual.
Christine and I are spending three weeks on North Island. Our aims during this period are to construct decoy traps and other catching procedures and to train the volunteers, Bethan and Sarah who will spend three months on the island, in all aspects of the eradication process. Another important part of this initial phase is informing staff and tourists of the aims of the eradication and requesting that they do not interfere with traps or other equipment. To this end I am giving a series of half-hour lectures to all staff on the island. On arrival, tourists are given a leaflet explaining what is happening, why, and asking for their support.