BirdLife International Fiji Programme
The BirdLife Pacific Partnership Secretariat manages a country programme in Fiji pending the development of an eligible conservation NGO there. The Fiji Programme was founded in 2003, and currently employs 5 staff (February 2010).
From 2003 to 2005, the BirdLife International Fiji Programme implemented a project funded by the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative to conduct field research across the country to identify sites important for Fiji’s biodiversity. This led to the identification of 14 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and the publication of an IBA directory in June 2006: Important Bird Areas in Fiji: Conserving Fiji's Natural Heritage - the first IBA directory for the Pacific region. [click here to download the Fiji IBA site accounts, PDF 1.5 MB].
In November 2003, a field team led by Birdlife’s Fiji Programme team rediscovered the endemic Long-legged Thicketbird Trichocichla rufa which had not been sighted in 108 years. Searches continue for the elusive Red-throated Lorikeet Charmosyna amabilis which has not been seen for the past 13 years.
Further funding from the Darwin Initiative and the Australian Government’s Regional Natural Heritage Programme in 2006 enabled work to continue at six priority forest IBA sites, where consultations continued with local landowners to protect their forests for the survival of specific site-endemic birds and to advance towards the establishment of community-managed protected areas. Two Site Support Groups were established at Nabukelevu (Kadavu) and Natewa Tunuloa IBA. Both SSGs are now well developed and continue to undergo training and capacity building workshops.
In January 2007, the Fiji Programme commenced two 2-year projects, both funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, to identify and restore islands important for seabirds through the eradication of invasive alien species, mainly rats. A forerunner of the latter project saw the island of Vatu-i-Ra being declared rat-free in early 2008 following successful eradication efforts there in mid-2006. In July 2008, the Fiji Programme undertook Fiji’s first helicopter-based rat eradication on seven islands with important seabird colonies.
By December 2009, two MOUs were signed with several landowning units at Natewa Tunuloa and Nabukelevu IBAs for the protection of their forests for a period of 10 and 5 years respectively. The Fiji Programme together with the communities and the SSGs have developed alternative livelihood projects to be undertaken by the landowning communities, including sustainable agriculture and model farming, bee-keeping, bread and pastry making and handicraft making. The projects are currently funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and the Global Environment Facility – Small Grants Programme. The projects will provide alternative sources of income for those villages who have agreed to protect their forests from logging and other unsustainable environmental practices. A similar initiative is been funded by the Darwin Initiative for priority seabird islands, Mabualau and Vatu-i-Ra.
With the implementation of these livelihood projects, the Fiji Programme hopes to establish these community managed areas as designate protected areas. However, management planning for existing protected areas and such community conserved areas in Fiji is lacking and the Fiji Programme and the Pacific Secretariat has produced a manual with the hope to improve the skills and knowledge of conservationists as well as Site Support Groups in adopting strategic actions for effective management of theseareas. Please download this manual here [PDF, 1.3 MB].
The Fiji Programme operates under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Fiji and works closely with the Departments of Environment and Forestry, the National Trust of Fiji and the University of the South Pacific (USP). Two students, under BirdLife sponsorship have graduated with Masters, one of whom has been recruited into the Fiji Programme.
In June 2007, with support from the Fiji Programme, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti was established as Fiji’s first indigenous conservation NGO and is now closely collaborating with BirdLife in its work.