Forests of Hope site - Natewa Tunuloa, Fiji
Site name: Natewa Tunuloa Country: Fiji IBA(s): FJ03 Location: The Natewa Tunuloa Peninsula is located on the south-eastern side of Vanua Levu bordering the largest bay in Fiji, the Natewa Bay and the Somosomo strait. Site area: Approximately 17, 600 ha Partner: NatureFiji-MareqetiViti (BirdLife International Fiji Programme - BIFP - until December 2012)
Values of the site
Natewa Tunuloa contains most of the large remaining forest tracts on the peninsula, including the largest tracts of old-growth forest. The IBA mostly covers lowland tropical rainforest which extends along the central ridge of the peninsula, including many steep slopes of montane forest. Bordering the IBA is degraded forest, most of which has been heavily logged in recent years. The IBA is home to a number of globally threatened species of bird including: the Vulnerable Shy Ground-Dove Gallicolumba stairi, Near Threatened Silktail Lamprolia victoriae, and 22 range-restricted species including the Golden Dove Ptilinopus luteovirens and Red Shining-parrot Prosopeia tabuensis.
A baseline survey conducted by BIFP showed that eight herpetofauna species were found in the IBA. Literature on Natewa identifies only two species of Hawkmoth; however survey results found five species collected from the IBA, four of which are new records for Natewa.
Natewa Tunuloa Peninsula is a Site of National Significance listed in the Fiji National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and is a priority biodiversity hotspot. It is also mentioned in the National Regional Tourism Strategy as an area that has potential to provide regional community benefits. The IBA has no legal designation or protection but has been formally recognised as a “priority area in need of formal protection” under the national Protected Area Committee.
Natewa Tunuloa is of great importance for a number of local communities and clans who depend on the forest and on the ecosystem services it provides. It is currently managed by landowning clans, who are represented within the established local Site Support Group (SSG).
Key threats to the site include:
Urban and agricultural encroachment
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 manage their forests in sustainable ways, often aware that forest management is related to water quality, availability of sustainable forest products, and flood risk management. However, they have often lacked financial resources, information and skills required to take action to implement successful conservation initiatives that continue to support their livelihoods. This led to the continuous logging and destruction of resources, despite their understanding of the importance of the conservation of their native forests for their livelihoods.
New conservation approach
Following Natewa Tunuloa’s identification as an IBA, community meetings and consultations were undertaken at the site, resulting in the establishment of the Natewa Tunuloa Site Support Group (SSG). SSGs are community-based groups consisting of local volunteers who have an interest in protecting their own environment. Continuous consultation of communities, involving all members irrespective of age, gender, religion or status, were instrumental in setting up the SSG. These consultations enabled BIFP to gain a deeper understanding of the requirements and interests of all local communities dependent on the forests. The SSG is named Sisi Initiative after the Sisi (Fijian name for the endemic Silktail). During the community consultation process, BIFP worked in close collaboration with the Fiji Department of Forestry who agreed to cease the issuing of logging licenses within the IBA.
The community managed Protected Area now covers a total of 6625 hectares within the IBA and the SSG has been involved in a number of workshops and training in IBA monitoring, establishment of small businesses and fundraising. The SSG is working in collaboration with a number of landowning clans, that are now committed to protecting these forests and have contributed to the development and implementation of a resources management plan. 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. Such small-scale projects will lessen 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 the IBA.
BIFP is now working closely with the National Protected Area forum to develop the first Protected Area legislation for Fiji, which will be based on the IUCN Protected Area categories, but will 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 the Protected Area legislation is in place, the community-declared Protected Area will be formally endorsed as a legally recognised Protected Area. This will strengthen the role of the SSG in terms of monitoring and collaboration with communities.