Race to save the last remaining lorikeet in the Marquesas Islands
Photo courtesy of Ben Cherry
The ultramarine lorikeet is one of the most endangered parrot species in the world. It is found on just one island in the Marquesas Islands, a remote archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean.
This bird is distinctive for its exquisite plumage, sporting a deep marine blue crown, iridescent aqua feathers on its forehead and back, a soft white belly speckled with blue and a tangerine orange beak and feet. The ultramarine lorikeet is known as the “pihiti” by the Marquesan Islanders, and it has a piercing squawk of a call that echoes across the deep valleys of the ancient volcanic islands.
The ultramarine lorikeet was once found across the archipelago, but due to habitat destruction and the introduction of domestic cats and black rats, today it only survives on the tiny windswept island of Ua Huka.
The Last Lorikeet project will investigate and document the threats facing the ultramarine lorikeet, the last lorikeet species to survive in the Marquesas, beginning with a six-week expedition to the islands of Ua Huka.
The expedition team is comprised of expedition leader Liv Grant, biologist Annika Schlemm, and photographer Ben Cherry. The team will work with scientists of the French Polynesian bird conservation organisation SOP Manu and local people to design a long-term plan to protect the ultramarine lorikeet. A crucial aspect of the Last Lorikeet project is raising awareness of the threats facing island dwelling bird species, and we are making a documentary film on the ultramarine lorikeet to illustrate this.