29 Nov 2015

Pacific Partnership Protects Nature for People and Wildlife

Particpants at a forum at the end of a five year conservation project in the Pacific
Particpants at a forum sharing information at the end of a five year Paciifc conservation project
By Miliana Ravuso

A five year project undertaken by BirdLife together with the European Union to protect some of the most important sites for birds and other native wildlife throughout the Pacific is coming to an end.  To share the knowledge and lessons gained, a workshop of the Pacific-wide partners was held in Suva,  It also aimed at finalising a strategy for upscaling this work in the five participating countries, and sharing these successes with other island countries.

Working with national BirdLife Partners in the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Palau invasive alien species have been permanently removed from 10 islands. These efforts have safeguarded 10 species of globally threatened wildlife such as the Polynesian Storm Petrel, Tahiti Petrel, Micronesian Megapode and the Polynesian Ground Dove of which fewer than 150 remain. In Fiji, partners including the local community removed all goats and rodents from the island of Monuriki protecting one of the few remaining native dry forest communities including the critically endangered Fiji Crested Iguana.

The landowners and communities of these islands have welcomed the removal of these invasive species. On the island of Kayangel in Palau the removal of rodents resulted in a marked improvement in crops with bananas and pawpaw harvested without damage and cucumber and corn that couldn’t previously be grown flourishing. In New Caledonia communities living traditionally within the Massif des Lèvres forest were experiencing similar problems as a result of pigs destroying their crops. Forming an organised group the community are successfully hunting pigs in safeguarding their gardens and providing an alternative livelihood through the local processing of game. The availability of improved hunting techniques meant the use of fire was no longer used protecting the forest and wildlife within.

The project has also sought to protect islands from new invasions. Steps are now being taken with the support of communities, governments and business in safeguarding 42 Pacific islands. In French Polynesia, specially trained dogs are being used to check for the presence of rodents among goods shipped to the island communities of Rimatara and Ua Huka. In Fiji, the project has worked alongside the Biosecurity Authority and put in place controls to prevent the spread of American Iguana and its establishment on Taveuni and elsewhere and similarly assessed the actions needed in preventing the establishment of the highly destructive Brown Tree Snake. 

At the forum Jesús Laviña, Head of Section, Infrastructures and Natural Resources with the EU Delegation in Suva   said, “Pacific communities are facing numerous threats from invasive species, which are having major effects on food security, health and wellbeing, and are seriously damaging the region's natural heritage”.   

 “We are delighted to support the BirdLife Pacific Partnership in their efforts to reduce the spread and impact of invasive alien species in the region. The programme has produced biosecurity procedures for 42 Pacific islands, including 12 in Fiji; and is providing protection for 10 species of globally threatened wildlife including the critically endangered Fiji Crested Iguana”.

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The whole project shows the scale of the problem facing the Pacific with invasives species but it also shows the power of partnership, both within BirdLife and working with other NGO and Government partners – and with the support of the European Union.