Forests of Hope site - Nabukelevu, Kadavu, Fiji

Nabukelevu SSG Chairman, Jovesa Drau holds the Kadavu subspecies of Island Thrush during an IBA Monitoring exercise. Photo by BirdLife Pacific Secretariat.


Site name: Nabukelevu, Kadavu

Country: Fiji

IBA(s): FJ12

Location: Nabukelevu District under the provincial jurisdiction of Kadavu.

Site area: Approximately 2900 ha

Country Programme: NatureFiji-MareqetiViti  ( Was the BirdLife International Fiji Programme - BIFP - until December 2012)


Values of the site

Mount Nabukelevu is the highest mountain on Kadavu, a spectacular isolated mountain rising steeply out from the sea. It has the largest area of montane forest in west Kadavu. The lower slopes have been largely cleared for agriculture but the forests found at the top of the mountain remain untouched. Nabukelevu is home to the four bird species and eight subspecies endemic to Kadavu; it may still support nesting colonies of threatened seabirds and is the only known nesting site in Fiji for the Vulnerable White-throated Storm-petrel Nesofregetta fuliginosa and one of the few sites remaining for the Near Threatened Collared Petrel Pterodroma brevipes.

Nabukelevu is home to a number of other globally threatened species including: the Vulnerable Crimson Shining-parrot Prosopeia splendens, the Near Threatened Whistling Dove Ptilinopus layardi, Near Threatened Kadavu Fantail Rhipidura personata. It is also home to 15 range-restricted species including the Kadavu Honeyeater Xanthotis provocator.

Nabukelevu is also believed to support several species of plants endemic to the mountain itself as the high montane plateau is unique within Kadavu. However, there is still a lot to discover regarding its herpetofauna and other biodiversity.

Nabukelevu, Kadavu IBA is a Site of National Significance listed in the Fiji National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and is a priority biodiversity hotspot. Although there is no legal designation or protection of the IBA, Kadavu has a number of Marine Protected Areas listed in the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas and is identified in the Fiji Tourism Development Plan as an area that Government needs to prioritise to develop a specific regional strategy based on the tourism industry as well as protected areas.

The IBA is governed by the respective landowning clans that are present in the four villages surrounding the mountain. Each clan is represented within the Site Support Group (SSG). Traditionally the mountain is an important water catchment, providing the four villages (Lomati, Daviqele, Qaliira and Nabukelevu-i-Ra) with clean drinking water.

View from the summit of Nabukelevu IBA. Photo by Jeremy Bird.


The key threat at the site is the use of unsustainable agricultural and soil management practices. This causes degradation of agricultural areas, and further pressure to clear more forest, especially in the context of the increasing population on Kadavu.


Historical conservation approach

The challenges of conserving Fiji‟s forest resources have mostly been due to low local capacity to manage them and lack of institutional capacity and enforcement to exercise proper protection and management. A number of communities have had the drive to implement sustainable land management practices, often aware that bad soil management is related to reduction in water quality and increased soil erosion causing siltation in the MPAs. However, they have often lacked financial resources, information and skills required to influence their decisions on how to sustainably use their resources. This led to the continuous use of unsustainable agricultural practices.


BirdLife undertook its first kids environment education project in Nabukelevu Kadavu. Photo by BirdLife Pacific Secretariat.

New conservation approach

A Site Support Group (SSG) was established in 2007, as the new Nabukelevu Conservation Committee as part of a process to facilitate a project funded by the Global Environment Facility Fund. SSGs are community-based groups consisting of local volunteers who have an interest in protecting their own environment. The objective of the project was to introduce an integrated package of forest conservation, sustainable agriculture and land management delivering multiple benefits to communities surrounding the mountain. The development and implementation of the project was the result of a thorough consultation process with the surrounding villages. During the consultation, BIFP engaged stakeholders from Government (Land Use, Agriculture & Forestry) and other Non-Governmental Organisations to facilitate discussions relating to the protection of natural resources.

The Nabukelevu SSG has already been influential in the area. They have worked with BIFP with four local villages to address a number of threats identified by the communities. Model farms have been established, a nursery for native trees was established in one of the villages and a reforestation programme was begun. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the 10 landowning clans and BirdLife International for the sustainable management of the forests and soil resources. This agreement is due to last for the next 20 years.

The Nabukelevu community-managed Area covers over 1500 hectares. This includes all the remaining forests surrounding Mount Nabukelevu. Following consultations, communities agreed to develop a management plan for the area. The plan includes the development of sustainable forest-based income generating projects including the alternative production of non-timber forest products and sustainable agricultural projects. These small scale initiatives will reduce the pressure on forest resources, help improve the quality of life for the local people and enhance community involvement and participation in the protection of their community managed Area.

The BirdLife Pacific Secretariat and NatureFiji-MareqetiViti are now working closely with the National Protected Area forum who is mandated to support the establishment of an adequate national protected area system consistent with national and international policy commitments. This is expected to take into account the local context (community conserved areas that have been traditionally designated, making sure that they are responsive to the needs and rights of the landowners).

Once Protected Area legislation is in place, it is envisaged that this will provide a stronger platform to formally endorse the community-declared Protected Area as a legally recognised Protected Area. This will strengthen the role of the SSG in terms of monitoring and collaboration with communities.

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