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Absence of Blood Parasites in Indigenous Birds from the Cook Islands, South Pacific

TitleAbsence of Blood Parasites in Indigenous Birds from the Cook Islands, South Pacific
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1990
AuthorsSteadman, DW, Greiner, EC, Wood, CS
JournalConservation Biology
We found no protozoan parasites in 79 blood smears of birds from the Cook Islands, South Pacific. Our sample consisted of 55 smears from nine indigenous species of land and aquatic birds, and 24 smears from one introduced land bird. The absence or scarcity of avian hematozoa in the Cook Islands is probably due to a very low prevalence of infection among introduced and naturally colonizing species of birds, rather than a scarcity of insect vectors. On one hand, the apparent absence or extreme scarcity of avian hematozoa, particularly the malaria-causing Plasmodium spp., is fortunate from a conservation standpoint, considering the devastating impact that Plasmodium from human-introduced mosquitoes and birds has had on the indigenous avifauna of Hawaii during the past century. On the other hand, our results suggest that the indigenous birds of the Cook Islands, much like those of Hawaii, would have little natural resistance to avian malaria should it be introduced. Thus precautions should be taken to prohibit the introduction of potentially infected nonnative birds or mosquitoes in the Cook Islands and elsewhere in Polynesia.