The Maninita (or Otu Motu Lalo) IBA comprises the three uninhabited islands of Maninita, Taula, Lualoli, the southern most islands in the Vava’u group. All three islands are raised limestone islands and together total approximately 13 ha. The vegetation on all three islands is almost intact, native vegetation which is representative of coral cay islands throughout Tonga. The Pisonia grandis woodland on Maninita, has some particularly large and impressive trees. The islands support extremely important nesting colonies of over 15,000 seabirds, especially black noddy Anous minutus. Rats were eradicated from the islands in 2002. The islands are owned by the government and there is an extant lease on Taula. All three islands are coming under increasing pressure from visiting fishermen and the tourist industry. Maninita, Taula and Lualoli are the southernmost islands of the Vava’u group. All three are raised limestone islands with a maximum height of less than 5m above sea level. Maninita has an area of 5.2 ha., Taula - 7.0 ha and Lualoli approximately 0.3 ha. The islands are situated on large patch reefs. Maninita is accessible to small craft at high tide, but the other islands are more difficult to access.
Twenty species of bird have been recorded on or around the three islands1. There are only three species of resident, breeding land birds – wattled honeyeater Foulehaio carunculata, banded rail Galirallus philippensis and white-collared kingfisher Todiramphus chloris. Five seabirds nest on the islands – black and brown noddys (Anous minutus and A.solidus), white tern Gygis alba and the red-footed booby Sula sula nest on both islands, black-winged petrel Pterodroma nigripennis nests only on Taula. Based on a stratified sampling of the two larger islands, the number of breeding pairs of black noddy was estimated at 13,248, brown noddy at 1,522 and with 50 pairs of red-footed booby. 547 pairs of white tern bred on Maninita, but breeding was not taking place during the survey of Taula, combined over 1,000 white terns probably breed on both islands (Watling 2002). No surveys were taken on Lualoli but small numbers of all but the black-winged petrel breed on this island too. A single, bristle-thighed curlew Numenius tahitiensis, a globally threatened species was observed moving between the three islands throughout the surveys.
Non-bird biodiversity: Twenty eight plant species have been recorded on Maninita and 37 species on Taula, with four vegetation associations distinguished – strand vegetation, pure stands of Neisosperma oppositifolium, Pemphis acidula scrub, and a woodland almost totally composed of Pisonia grandis with a canopy height of between 7-15m, which forms the core vegetation type. A globally rare and threatened plant Sesbania coccinea is present on both Maninita and Taula with a total of no more than seven plants. Whistler (1992) indicates that this species may be extinct in Tonga. The flying fox Pteropus tonganus visits the islands in small numbers. Four terrestrial reptiles have been recorded - by far the commonest is the gecko Gehyra oceanica, others included Lepidodactylus lugubris, Lipinia noctua and Emoia impar. Formerly, the Polynesian rat Rattus exulans occurred at very high densities on both Maninita and Taula, the rats were eradicated from Maninita in June/July 2002 and from Taula and Lualoli in December 2002 (Houston 2003).
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Maninita, Taula, Lualoli. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/01/2021.