Lost then found species capture the imagination of people everywhere. They make the news and their discovery is celebrated. There is every expectation that once `found’ the lost species will now join the list of living species, rather than the ghosts of species lost.
But that is not a certainty as most `lost’ species are extremely rare and endangered. And unless conservation action can be taken to secure them for habitat threats and predators that are responsible for their `loss’ in the first place, these new sightings may only be a glimpse before they are gone once again, this time for forever. The biggest danger for most sea bird species is the time they spend ashore nesting and to their eggs and fledglings. Knowing exactly where these `lost’ birds nest is essential to ensuring they have a future.
Beck’s petrel is one of the `lost’ seabirds of the Pacific. Lost for 75 years after its initial discovery and recording, it was only spotted again in 2007 offshore of the Papua New Guinean islands of New Britain and New Ireland. Despite increased reporting of Beck’s Petrel sightings for southern New Ireland there is no knowledge of precisely where they breed and the search area remain vast. It is rated as Critically Endangered.
Fiji Petrel is another `lost but found’ bird that is also Critically Endangered. Lost for over 100 years apart from a few tantalising glimpses, it was rediscovered when one was captured in in 1984. It is currently believed that fewer than 50 pairs survive, breeding in 52 square kilometres in rugged forest on the island of Gau, Fiji, but its nesting grounds have yet to be located. It has to be assumed that the existing meagre population of Fiji Petrel is declining. We know that cats are on the high ridgelines as are Pacific Rats Brown and Black rats are also on the island but their distribution is not known. Feral pigs are also a major treat. But until the location of the nests is known no practical conservation measures to secure the remaining nests and start the recovery cannot happen. Finding where they nest is the single most urgent and important conservation action required now to save the species from extinction. BirdLife wants to make 2016 the year we gave both these birds a secure future.