Suwarrow Atoll National Park

Year of compilation: 2012

Site description
Suwarrow is a low coral atoll located in the Northern Cook Islands. It is about 1,300 km south of the equator and 930 km NNW of Rarotonga, from which it is administered. The Atoll is not permanently inhabited however, the Cook Islands National Environment Service station two rangers on Anchorage for approximately six months of the year. The Rangers acts as Immigration, Police, Biosecurity, Environment and Customs Officers to yachties who turn up for shelter or to rest before continuing on. Suwarrow is an Important Bird Area and also a Key Biodiversity Area, duly because it’s significant seabird breeding colonies and the plentiful marine life.

Key biodiversity
Important nesting sites for Red Tailed Tropicbird, Sooty Tern and Lesser Frigatebird, where >1% of global population is resident. Wintering site for Bristle-thighed Curlew (VU). It supports 14 species of seabird including over one percent of the global population of Sooty tern (Sterna fuscata) Red-tailed tropicbird (Phaeton) and lesser frigatebird (Fregata), Karika et al (2013). Most of the small islets have only herbs and shrubs, with Pemphis acidula and beach heliotrope (Tournefortia argentea) growing in abundance. The larger islands have a dense interior vegetation of Cordia subcordata (tou); which, the westernmost island, Motu Tou is named after this woodland, and its name literally means "high island"(Jones 2001).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Invasive species, Habitat destruction

Protected areas
Declared as a national National Park in 1978

Habitat and land use
Uninhabited atoll except for two caretakers for six months of each year. Undeveloped except for a cyclone shelter on Anchorage islet. Native atoll vegetation dominates the islets.

Land ownership
Suwarrow was declared a National Park some thirty years ago by the Cook Islands Government and is under the jurisdiction of the National Environment Service.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Suwarrow Atoll National Park. Downloaded from on 25/06/2022.