Flora & fauna
The flora varies widely from island to island
Flowers and coconut palms are everywhere but the flora of the Cook Islands varies widely from island to island.
Stream and ferns on a Rarotonga walk
The damp mountainous central part of Rarotonga is densely covered with a jungle of ferns, creepers and towering trees. Gerald McCormack of the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Project has identified distinctive types of plant communities in Rarotonga including those of the valley forests, native fernlands, native slope forest, native ridge forest, native rockface and native cloudforests. Gerald McCormack and artist, Judith Künzle have published a book, Rarotonga's Mountain Tracks and Plants that details the plant life and has information about hiking tracks.
On other islands in the Southern Group the rocky makatea is covered with lush tropical growth and a considerable variety of plants.
On the atolls of the Northern Group the soil is usually limited and infertile with little vegetation apart from the coconut palms.
The Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust has an excellent website documenting scientific and traditional information on local plants and animals. The site has a database of over 4000 species as well as a collection of reports and articles.
Fauna - reintroduction program of native birds
The only native mammal is the Pacific Fruit-Bat, which is found on Mangaia and Rarotonga.
Eight species of geckos and six species of skinks are found in the Cooks. You quite often hear the 'chi-chi-chi' sound of the House Gecko calling, especially in the evening when they are preying on insects attracted to the lights.
There a few native birds on Rarotonga and you need to go into the hills to see them. But there have been some very successful bird conservation programmes including that of the Rarotonga flycatcher or kakerori and the reintroduction of the Rimatara lorikeet to Atiu.
Conservationists release Rimatara Lorikeet on Atiu
The ubiquitous myna bird, a native of India, was introduced in 1906 to control the coconut stick insect. Its role here was so successful that these insects are rarely found now but the myna bird has in turn become a nuisance if not a pest.
We're not sure when the roosters were introduced but along with the myna birds they dominant the dawn chorus - and not just at dawn!