31 Jul 2016

BirdLife steps up conservation work in Vanuatu

Vanuatu megapode. Photo by Dr Mark O'Brien
By Mike Britton

Vanuatu is one of the hot spots for nature conservation in the Pacific.  It is the home to 9 globally endangered bird species and 9 endemic species.  Eight important bird and biodiversity areas have been identified by BirdLife.

In 2015 Cyclone Pam devastated Vanuatu and the lives of its people.  It is still recovering and this was especially the case for some of the remote villages, many in the areas where nature is most challenged.

With the support of the Critically Ecosystem Partnership Fund, BirdLife has been working with local community conservation groups through the Vanuatu Environment Advocacy Network (VEAN).  Helping VEAN develop as a democratic NGO is an important part of the support BirdLife is providing.  This includes helping with governance, administration and finance.  It has also run courses to help the community participants apply for funding to support their projects. 

For conservation to work it has to be driven by the people who are directly impacted by the conservation action being proposed and be part of it.  They recognize the impact of land development and introduced predator species on the birds and other wildlife of importance to them.

A number of the species of concern are traditionally harvested for food by the local people and this is important to them.  They are, however, concerned about whether the level of harvest is sustainable and this is an area where they would like BirdLife’s help.  Species of concern include the Vanuatu Megapode and the Collared Petrel.  Sometimes this harvest seems unjustified but it is an important part of the local culture and recognizing that is a key part of getting community support for nature protection.  Controlling any harvest at sustainable levels and working with local people to protect population nesting sites and reducing the pressure from habitat modification and predation are all important ways of ensuring a future for these species