Cook Islands Biodiversity & Natural Heritage
Cook Islands Biodiversity & Natural Heritage



I started researching the plants and animals of the Cook Islands in 1980 as a hobby while I was the Science Advisor to the Ministry of Education. This hobby continued through my two years as Director of the Environment Service from 1988 to 1990; and it became an occupation when Sir Geoffrey Henry established the Natural Heritage Project in 1990. The Natural Heritage Trust was formed by an Act of Parliament in 1999, and the Project moved into the Trust.

Undertaking such research in the absence of a community of biologists and scientific libraries would have been impossible without the continuous support of overseas specialists. Their academic and moral support made the scientific side of the Project possible. I am immensely grateful to them, regardless of whether we worked together for days on end in the field or they gave a sentence that solved an otherwise insoluble problem.

The Project transformed from natural science into natural heritage as residents told me their names for and uses of local plants and animals. I am forever grateful to them for their encouragement and their willingness to share their traditional knowledge with a delving foreigner. I can only hope I have not misrepresented your knowledge when I recorded it in English with a 'western' scientific bias.

Some overseas and local experts made a major effort to contribute information to the Natural Heritage Project and I could not resist putting their names in bold type.

A special thanks to my late wife, Kathy McCormack for her support of my endless hobby, and to my partner, Judith Kunzle for her contribution to the Natural Heritage Project as an artist and fellow researcher.

Meitaki ma‘ata.

Gerald McCormack, July 2003

Administrative Support

The Cook Islands Natural Heritage Project is the only programme of its kind in the South Pacific. It was made possible when the Prime Minister, Sir Geoffrey Henry, offered his support to the idea of recording and preserving traditional and scientific knowledge of all Cook Islands plants and animals. I thank Sir Geoffrey and his cabinet for supporting the programme thoughout the 1990s, culminating in the Natural Heritage Trust Act of 1999. Since that time I am indebted to the Chairman of the Trust, Lionel Browne and his Board (Mark Brown, Maria Cowan, Nga Mataio, Ken Matheson, Janice Siulepa, Io Tuakeu-Lindsay, and Vaitoti Tupa). From the days before the programme was formalised I would like to give a special thanks to Tuingariki Short (former Secretary of Education), Cecilia Short (former Senior Curriculum Officer), Tony Utanga (former Secretary of Internal Affairs), Neva Wendt (Education Officer, SPREP), and Diane Goodwillie (Canada Fund) for their support and encouragement. During the 1990s a special thanks to Tere Tangiiti (then Secretary of the Prime Minister's Department), Tuingariki Short (then Secretary of MOWEPP), Io Tuakeu-Lindsay (Director of the Environment Service), Peter Phillips, and Bruce Watson. And in this century a special thanks to Allen Allison (Vice president, Bishop Museum).

Project Financial Support

The Cook Islands Government has funded the Project since 1990. Agencies that have given important supportive funding directly facilitating the development of the database have been: New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), UNDP/GEF, Bishop Museum of Honolulu, and the Pacific Basin Information Node (PBIN). Other agencies that gave general financial suport to the Natural Heritage Project were: Pacific Development and Conservation Trust, South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme, Canada Fund, and UNDP.

Database Programmers

Although I planned the database and did endless trivial programming I want to give special mention to the professional programmers who at intervals propelled the database (and me) forward. In the sequential order of their involvement the programmers were: Sunil Krishna, Turia Vogel, Ken Fiore, Terry Farrah, Jack Stoffers (two months programming Acess), Garth McCormack (duplicate-file finder), Richard Pyle (the original website 2003-04), and Justin McCormack (the new website 2005).

Database Assistants

I would like to give a special thanks to Fritha Stalker, the first Database Assistant, who spent 18-months sorting and selecting slides, inputting images, writing descriptions, and assisting with the system of classification that underlies the database. A special thanks for the months of image editing undertaken by Gwen Welland, and to Sonja Miller for months of detailed work on local corals and other marine invertebrates.


Overseas Experts


Blake Abernethy (whales, NZ)


Barry Baquie (fishing, NZ), George Balazs (turtles, Honolulu), Hans van Balken (Solanaceae, Belgium), Sandy Bartle (seabirds, Wellington), Catherine Beard (artwork, plants and marine, Hamilton), Joe Beatty (spiders), Ross Beever (fungi, Auckland), C.C. Berg (Cecropia expert), Hugh Best (seals, NZ), Peter Beveridge (marine biology, Wellington), Doug Bolger (lizards, San Diego), Christian Bottomley (Mangaia flora and fauna, UK), Bristish Museum of Natural History, Tring (images of Mauke Starling), Nico Broodbakker (crustacea, England), Fred Brook (landsnails, NZ), Emilio Bruna III (lizards, San Diego) , Phil Brunner (plovers, Hawai'i), Mike Bryan (Kākerōri, England)


Euan Cameron (plants, Auckland), Alan Carson (geology, NZ), David Carter (insects, BM Lond.), Harry Carter (Takutea seabirds, USA), Ted Case (lizards, San Diego), Peter Castle (anguillids, Wellington), John Chainey (flies, BM Lond.), Carl Christensen (land snails, Honolulu), the late Horace Clay (plants, Hawai'i), Kendall Clements (fishes, NZ), Charles Cole (turtles & lizards, USA), Steve Compton (figs, UK), Graham Cowles (Kākerōri, England), Doug Craig (blackflies, Canada), Trevor Crosby (insect curator, NZ)


Pat Dale (insects, Auckland), Janet Davidson (Polynesia Dog, Wellington), Bill Dickinson (geology, USA), Lorne Doig (freshwater invertebrates, Canada), Diana Dombroski (Kākerōri, Whangarei), Mike Donaghue (whales, Wellington), Allan Donnelly (mountaineering, Australia), Chris Down (BESO entomologist 1999, UK), John Dugdale (moths and butterflies, NZ), Darrin Drumm (marine, NZ)


Mark Eddowes (archaeology, Tahiti), Jenny Edmonds (Solanum, UK), Eric Edwards (insects, NZ), Lu Eldridge (marine biology & landsnails, Hawai'i), Ian Elgie (Nightingale ms, England), Yves Ehrhart (forestry, New Caledonia), John (Jack) Elix (lichens, Australia), Chris Eve (Rarotonga hiking, NZ), Neal Evenhuis (insects, Honolulu)


Terry and Paul Farrah (database programming, USA), Ann Fielding (marine animals, Hawai'i), Robert Fisher (lizards, San Diego), Mike Fitzgerald (rats & cats, Wellington), Oli Floerl (sponge collection, NZ), Tim Flynn (invasive plants, USA), Mike Foale (coconuts, Australia), Malcolm Francis (fishes, NZ), Janet Franklin (GIS, Santa Barbara or San Diego), Kevin Freeny (video from National Geographic Endeavour 2006, USA)


John Game (ferns, San Francisco), the late Phil Gardner and Georgie Gardner (plants, NZ), Peter Gaze (Kākerōri, Nelson), Chrissem Gemmill (coconuts, USA), the late John Gibbons (lizards, Fiji), Brian Gill (birds & lizards, Auckland), Ann Goeth (birds, Australia), Tino Gonsalves (wasps, BPBM), David Goodger (dragonflies, BM London), David Gordon (Mauke starling, UK), Ken Grange (fishes, NZ), Gilbert Grant (fruit-bats, USA), Roger Green (Polynesian calendars, Auckland), Mike Greenfelder (whale photos 2006, USA), , Colin Groves (pigs, Canberra), Kathrin Guderian (waders and marine, USA)


Grace Hall (spiders, Auckland), Peter Harrison (seabirds, USA), Nan Hauser (whales, USA), Rod Hay (birds, Wellington), Alison Haynes (freshwater snails, Fiji), Ralph Hill (bird photos 2006, USA), Walter Hodge (palms, Florida), Frank Howarth (insects, BPBM)


Mike Imber (petrels, Wellington), Walter Ivantsoff (freshwater fish, Australia)


Jim and Maria Jackson (fishes, Hawai'i), Annika Jansson (video from National Geographic Endeavour 2006, Sweden), , Peter Johnston (fungi, Auckland), Peter Jenkins (sonographs, Auckland), Cathy Jones (artwork, plants and marine, Nelson), Rhys Jones (Suwarrow birds and coconut crabs, NZ)


Regie Kawamoto (land snails, BPBM), Lucy Kelly (Mangaia flora and fauna, UK), Cameron Kepler (seabirds, USA), Angela (Kay) Kepler (birds & plants, Hawai'i), Michelle Kelly (sponge collection and identification, NZ), John Kernan (fish photos 2006, USA), Jack Kinder (ethnobotany, Auckland), Alan Kohn (shellfish, Seattle), Sandra Kinsey (waders, Canada)


Nigel Langham (Kākerōri, Wellington), Laird Law (waders, Canada), Ruth Lechte (birds, Fiji), Mary LeCroy (birds, USA), Michael Lentz (termites, Queensland), Alan Lieberman and Cyndi Kuehler (lorikeets, USA), Tim Lovegrove (birds, Auckland), Cecilia Luttrell (plants, England), Simone Louwhoff (lichens, Australia/UK)


Patrick McCarthy (lichens, Australia), Justin McCormack (programming, Auckland), Peter Maddison (insects, Auckland), Rick and Anne Martin (fishes, Canada), Lisa Matisoo-Smith (Pacific Rat, Auckland), John Medler (insects, Honolulu), Mark Merlin (plants & birds, Hawai'i), Jean-Yves Meyer (plants, Tahiti), Michael Miller (marine invertebrates, Auckland), Sonja Miller (corals, marine invertebrates, NZ), Suzanne Mitchell (Kākerōri, England), John Morrison (soils, NZ), John Morton (marine biology, Auckland), Carol Mullin (BESO entomologist 1999, UK), Alan Munroe (geology, NZ)


Grace Nakahashi (insects, Honolulu), Josh Newman (video from National Geographic Endeavour 2006, NZ), Gordon Nishida (insects, Honolulu), Antoine N'Yeurt (seaweeds, Tahiti)


Brian O'Shea (mosses, UK)


Ricardo Palma (bird lice, Wellington), Lynne Parenti (freshwater fish, Smithsonian), Murray Parsons (plants, Christchurch), Bernadette Paulay (freshwater snails, Guam), Gustav Paulay (marine biology & landsnails, Guam), John Paxton (pelagic fishes, Australia), Karen Peacock (Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i), Hoyt Peckham (whales and turtles, USA), Ray Pierce (Kākerōri, Whangarei), Chris Pollard (Blue Lorikeet, Zimbabwe), Wendy Pond (ethnobiology, Wellington), Michael Poole (whales, Moorea), Doug Pratt (birds, USA), Michael Price (Laughing Gull, Canada), Deborah Proctor (spiders, England), Paul Provic (fruit-bats, Queensland), Richard (Rich) Pyle (programming and fishes, Honolulu), Robert Pyle (Kākerōri, Honolulu), Doug Pratt (sandpipers, USA)


Bill Rainey (fruit-bats, California), C.J. Ralph (birds, USA), John (Jack) Randall (fishes, Hawai'i), Philippe Raust (birds, Tahiti), Art Reed (marine invertebrates, Hawai'i), Ernie Reese (crustacea, Honolulu), Fr. Riotte (insects, Honolulu), Mark Robbins (Kākerōri), Mere Roberts (Pacific Rat, Auckland), Hugh Robertson (birds, Wellington), Meryl Robinson (Kākerōri, Whangarei), David Roots (geology, Australia), Frank Rowe (echinoderms, Australia)


Kevin and Mary Salisbury (Pukapuka language, plants and animals, Auckland), Al Samuelson (insects, Honolulu), Kerry Sanders (Kākerōri, Palmerston North), Sue Searle (BESO entomologist 1999, UK), Joe and Ellen Schmitt (mountaineering, USA), Rowland Shelley (millipeds and centipeds, USA), Dick Sibson (birds, Auckland), Neil Sims (Cook Islands fishes, Hawai'i), Ed Slaby (bird photos 2006, USA), Matt Smith (sponge collection), Mark (Chief) Solomonson (fish images, USA), Jim Space (invasive plants, USA), Tom Spencer (geology, England), Fritha Stalker (18 months of taxonomy and image processing, Auckland), George Staples (ornamental plants, Hawai'i), Andy Starrett (Mangaia birds, California), David Steadman (birds & lizards, USA), Jack Stoffers (fish photography and programming, London/Cayman Islands), John Strazanac (insects, Honolulu), Naomi Sugimura (marine invertebrates, Japan), Stephen Swabey (geology & hydrology, England), John Swarbrick (plants, Queensland), Bill Sykes (plants, Christchurch)


Michael Taylor (bird calls, Auckland), Joann Tenorio (insects, Honolulu), Wesley Thorsson (molluscs, USA), Kevin Tilbrook (bryozoans, Auckland & UK), Rich Titgen (crustacea, Honolulu), David Todd (birds, England)


John Uffindell (crustacea, NZ)


Richard Walter (archaeology, NZ), Jill Watt (French-English Translator), Nigel Watt (flies, BM Lond.), Richard Webber (crustacea, Wellington), Art Whistler (plants, Hawai'i), Richard White (seabird records 2006, UK), H.O. Whittier (mosses, USA), Hugh Wilde (soils, NZ), Chris Wilkinson (Leader, BESO insect expedition 1999, UK), Kerry-Jayne Wilson (Blue Lorikeet, Christchurch), the late Kazimierz Wodzicki (birds, Wellington), Keith Woolliams (hibiscus, Hawai'i), Graham Wragg (birds, England)


Len Zell (marine biology, Australia), George Zug (reptiles, USA)


Cook Islands Experts


Tuangaru (Bobby) Bishop, Ben Grummels (marine life), Graeme Hancock, Tekaka Henry, Kimiora Mangi, Putangi Mose, Paraia Paraia, Mairaro Pi, Raukete Raukete, Maraeara Tekii (ethnology, fishes), Solomona Tetevano-Solomona, Nga Tuakura (plants), Rio Tuiravakai (fishes)


Ron and Joan Dobbs (birds & rats), Father Edwin (plants), Teauturangi Kapuvai (ethnobotany), Roger and Kura Malcolm, Jurgen and Andrea Mankse-Eimke, Vaine-Moeroa Koronui, James Munroe (freshwater prawns), Upoko Simpson, Tatuava Tanga, Teiotu (Papa Tu) Tangatapoto, Rima Terekia (ethnobotany), Bob and Dawn Turner (birds), Nooroa Vainepoto, Paiere Mokoroa (Atiu historian)


Atingakau (Ti), Noomaunga George (reef poster), Mataora Harry (orthography & ethnology), Tuaiva Mautairi (reef poster), Aerenga Matapo, Ma'aki Metuangaro, Peter and Sue Ngatokorua, the late Tiriamate (Ti) Ngatokorua, Vaine and Vai Ongoua, Ngametua Papatua (reef poster), Rev. Ngatupuna Pareina, Teaea Parima, Papamama Pokino (reef poster), Rimaata Tuakana, the late George Tuara, Allan Tuara, Tangianau Tiaki, Mataakama Tei, Peiaa Teinangaro, Atingahau (Ti) Tangatakino


Metuakore (policeman), Merio Ripati, Sampson Charlie, Amosa Greig (reef poster), Thiophilo Johnson (reef poster), Bernadino (Boaza) Kaina, Akeau Kairua (reef poster), Ioane Kaitara, Tobia Kaitara, President and Lucy Koteka, Charlie Mairi, John Mere, Freddy Neil, Raymond Newnham, Johnson Phaphia (reef poster), Palmer Richards, Metua Williams, Tekake Williams


Ngatuakana (Pa) Aerenga, Mii Aerenga (ethnobotany), Noo and Kamoe Aiturau, Mrs Tera Apeuni (plants), Rongoape John & Mrs Tangi Rongoape John, the late Ina Papa, Tautara and Kura Purea, Mana (Papa Mana) Samuela, Tutai (Mapu) Taia, Piri Taiea, Uru Tairea (field guide), the Hon. Vaine Tairea, Tangata (Ta) Tararo, Terau Tararo (ethnobotany), Tengaru (Papa Tete) Tobia, Basilio Tutai (plants), Mii Mataira (ethnobotany)


Toshio (eels), Mama Akeariu, Vaine (‘Are) Henry, Mr and Mrs Rouru Ingaua, Mr and Mrs Kimiora, Papa Piaenui Makivavia, Teupe Mateariki & Tutu Mateariki, Matakopa Ngatuakana, the late Don O'Brien, Tangatapoto Patia (reef poster), Ken Pokoati-Hodson, Tungane (Nane) Pokoati-Hodson, Papa Tangapiri (reeflife), Noopoti Tangaroa, Raeputa Tangatapoto (reeflife), Patu Taputoa, Kimi Tautau, Papa Tumataora Tiki, Vaine Toa, Papa Mateariki Tutini, Turangitira Turangitira


Bill Marsters Jr., David Marsters, Melbourne John Marsters, Taepae John Marsters


Doreen Elia (reef poster), Lui Isaia (reef poster), Teiho Maireriki, Bill Marsters, Aruea Niukore, Matetoru Tautu (reef poster), Onio Terekai (fishes), Soa Tini (reef poster), Terepai Tutai, Andrew Vaeau, Teinaki Williams


Pareura Katoa, Mangere Maro, Tukia Mataora, Walewaoa Teingoa, Inapa Winangaro (reef poster), Tiaki Wuatai. (informants for 2004 workshop yet to be inserted).


Tuatai Rapana, Wuatai Wuatai


Pokipoki Flyriver, (reef poster) Kimi Greig (reef poster), Temu Hagai, Vaeau Temu Hagai, Mrs Faiteru Makira, Toka Makira (reef poster), Mrs Munakoatina Piho


The late Makea Nui Inanui Ariki (ethnology), Papehia Aviu (ethnology), Dolly Baker (plants), Hugh and Ioana Baker (plants and cane toad), Wayne Barclay and Jenny Sorensen (whales, seabirds), Ian Bertram (fishes), Charles (Chip) Boyle (fishes), Teariki Buckley (fishes), Upoko-Tiao Campbell (Long-necked Turtle), Sue Carruthers (plants), Bill Cowan (plants), George Cowan (ethnology), Louisa Cowan (ethnology), Sir Tom Davis (7-coconuts), Melinda Detlefs (proof reading), Diane Dorrell (garden plants), Athol Grosse (orchids), Kathrin Guderian (birds, reef-life), William and Niotangi Heather (ethnology), Barry Hill (marine life), the late Bill Hosking Snr. (plants), Bill Hosking Jr. (plants), James Hosking (plants), Ioane Kaitara Jr. (fishes), Maara Karotaua (ethnology), Kauraka Kauraka (ethnology), Thomas Kino (fishes), Hinano Macquarrie (garden plants), Neil and Diane McKegg (birds), the late Kathy McCormack (marine molluscs), Ta'u Manariki (freshwater fishes), August Maraetefau (fishes), Ioaba Marsters (Long-necked Turtle), Brian Mason (legislation), Jean Mason (ethnology), the late Don and Marie Melvin (plants), Claire Michihara (proof reading), Josh Mitchell (fishes), Rangi Moeka'a (orthography & ethnology), Dr Koekoe Mokotupu (fishes), Tony Montieth (plants), Dorothy Munroe (fishes of Pukapuka), Manarangi Nicholas (ethnology), Tuaitu & Linda Ngaputa (plants), David Nooroa (ethnology), George Paniani (historical material), Pare Maui (ethnology), Junior Papa (Giant Petrel), Kelvin Passfield (algae, marine), Tangaina Patia (fishes), Turara Pekepo (mynas & fishes), Tauira Peuruaa (plants), the late Dominique (Tata) Peyroux (mynas), Oliver Peyroux (survey information and plants), Joyce Peyroux (plants), Maja Poeschko (insects, MoA), Ben Ponia (fishes and marine), the late Ron Powell (marine life), William Powell (fishes), Kori Raumea (fishes), Tana Richmond (freshwater eels), Griff Robati (ethnology), Joan Rolls (ethnology), Ed Saul (birds and plants), the late Tangata Simiona (ethnology), the late Dave Simms (marine life), Otheniel Tangianau (forestry), George and Mata Taraare (plants, ethnobotany), Tuti Taringa (ethnology and linguistics), Mary Taripo (garden plants), Sonny Tatuava (fishes), Michael Tavioni (whales & ferns), Carmen Temata (Chief Librarian), Tereapii (Apii) Temata (fishes), Jimmy, Mark & Andrew Terei (birds, fruit-bats), Elgin and Sharon Tetachuk (whales), Ngarauru Teurua'a, Anna Tiraa-Passfield (birds), Jeanne Tianoa (with Rosaline Tianoa and Georgina Maui, Kukupa nesting), Makiuti Tongia (ethnology), Bill Tschan (plants), Peter Toto (fishes), Ngati Tuiravakai (fishes), Kiriau Turepu (plants), Poko & Ngari Tutaka-George (garden plants), Terry Utanga (seabirds), Raea Utia (reef poster), Marie Watson (mynas), Diya Welland (birds), Gwen Welland (image processing), Tepaeru Whitta (7-coconuts)


Search Biodiversity Database Biodiversity Database

More Options | Help
What Am I? Click to display answer!
random image from database


Copyright © 2007 (July) The Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust, all rights reserved.
Copyright & Use Policy