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Cook Islands

Mangaia Island


Conservation benefit: Protection of 4,500 acres of forest habitat of the Mangaia kingfisher for 15 years

Community benefit: Refurbishing school building, purchase of tools and equipment for skilled trades courses

Date Approved: 06.2017


This project protects forest, preventing the release of greenhouse gases and reducing erosion that damages coastal and ocean ecosystems.

At 18 million years old, beautiful Mangaia is thought to be the oldest island in the Pacific. It is a volcanic island, ringed by steep 200-foot cliffs made of fossil coral called makatea.

Mangaia’s isolation has not protected it from invaders–plants and animals that prey on or compete with native species. These newcomers are a major cause of island extinctions. The common myna, a bird from Asia, is a ferocious invader. It is the biggest threat to the Mangaia kingfisher, or tanga’eo, a striking bird that is endemic to the island.

The tanga’eo lives primarily in the forested areas around the island’s perimeter. The communities of Mangaia will protect all of the this habitat, banning cutting of the trees that the cavity-nesting bird favors. Preserving this habitat will also help other endangered species, including the coconut crab, reed warbler, and the big fruit bats known as flying foxes.

Seacology funding will go to repair a school building and buy tools and equipment for island youth who want to learn skilled trades. This practical education will help them find work as carpenters, electricians, or auto mechanics on Mangaia. The community hopes these new opportunities will help stem the tide of youth leaving in search of education and jobs.

Project Updates

February 2021

Twenty students completed a carpentry course and achieved their New Zealand Qualification Level 1 and Level 2 in Building/ Construction and Allied Trades Skills (BCATS). In addition, they made 18 stools and donated them to elderly residents of the island. Next year, a Level 3 BCATS course next year will enroll not only school students but also community members. A grand opening for the workshop is planned for later this year.

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June 2020

Island leaders are strictly managing the kingfisher habitat. The Cook Islands is still free of any cases of COVID-19, but social distancing and travel restrictions are in place as a precaution. So although the school building is now complete, its official opening has been postponed.

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December 2019

Tools and equipment have arrived, and the students built six workbenches for the school building. Next, the community will install the sign they ordered, and officially open the school.

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May 2019

Island leaders are managing the Mangaia kingfisher habitat well and are conducting ongoing community and school environmental education programs. According to our field representative Tuaine Tuara, who lives on Mangaia, bird researchers and island residents have reported a noticeable increase in the kingfisher population. The students have built six workbenches, and the school building is now complete. Painting is scheduled for this month.

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December 2018

Most of the construction work on the school building is now complete; all that remains to be done is some wiring and painting. The kingfisher habitat around the island is being well taken care of, and the effort is supported by island leaders.

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May 2018

Much of the construction work is now complete. The community is hoping to open the school at the end of July. The kingfisher habitat around the island is being protected.

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January 2018

All materials are now on site, and construction work began in December 2017. The rafters are complete, and the builders have started on one side of the half walls.

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