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Protected Areas

In the Cook Islands today, there are National Parks and Conservation Areas that aim to conserve species primarily for their survival rather than as a resource to be replenished. Reserves exist on specific locations on various islands.

Map of the Cook IslandsSuwarrow Atoll National Park
Aitutaki Island Reserves
Manihiki Island Reserves
Mitiaro Island Reserves
Pukapuka Island Reserves
Rakahanga Island Reserves
Rarotonga Island Reserves


Invasive Species 1

Coral reefs are undergoing a worldwide crisis and being lost at an alarming rate. Climate change, overfishing, and pollution are all taking their toll, but some corals face an additional problem: they are being eaten alive. In May 2013, a science team of the Khaled Bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation investigated the waters surrounding Aitutaki.  Acanthaster planci, or  the Crown of Thorns Starfish, named for its helmet of venomous spines, had damaged between 80 and 99 percent of the island’s coral reef systems. For reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, only cyclones and bleaching events cause more destruction than the voracious Crown of Thorns.

Traditional Plants 1

Traditional and Herbal Medicine in the Cook Islands by W. Arthur Whistler (1985) describes the research he carried out on the practice of “Maori medicine” in the Cook Islands alongside native healers who used a variety of herbal medicines and traditional practices to treat many of the common ailments affecting their people. The book provides a historical review and some methods used to prepare and administer herbal medicines.  Included is also a list of the 49 plants most commonly used in native cures, with information on how often and for what they are used.  Traditional and Herbal Medicine in the Cook Islands. Available from: [accessed Aug 31, 2017].

ABS Update

Final ABS community consultations (November 2018)

The ABS project team has recently completed the last of their community consultations after holding sessions in the three vaka on Rarotonga – Puaikura, Takitumu and Te Au o Tonga.

Although the meetings were attended by small groups of participants (very much unlike the huge gatherings in the Pa Enua), those who attended were very focused on the rights of the individual taunga as to what protections the registration process might provide the owners of the traditional knowledge and the plants associate with the medicines they produced. Another concern was how rare it was becoming to find these medicinal plants nowadays with so much land being cleared for building, etc

While Are Korero are being established on the Pa Enua following on from the ABS consultation visits to incorporate the interests of taunga and the requests that might arise from those who may wish to study the effects of some of their natural cures, there is a need to also form an Are Korero to protect the interests of those who use traditional knowledge and natural medicines on Rarotonga.

There was also concern raised that the leaders of the Are Korero from Rarotonga and the Pa Enua were not already established as a group so that collectively they could discuss issues such as ABS and how they can protect their taunga and their traditional knowledge.