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European contact

When European contact was first made in the late 18th century the southern islands had thriving populations. Rarotonga supported about 8000. However, European diseases virtually wiped out the pure Rarotongans in the mid-19th century and reduced their number to fewer than 2000. Since then, periodic additions of outer islanders have built Rarotonga's population back to about 9000. The total population of all the islands is about 18,000. There are believed to be a further 37,000 Cook Islanders living in New Zealand and Australia.