UK trust funds Solomons Hawksbill Turtle conservation
A community based conservation initiative in Solomon Islands has received a huge financial boost from Britain's Rufford Foundation.
Initiative in Solomon Islands has received a huge financial boost from Britain's Rufford Foundation.
The Mulaulalo Island Conservation Initiative was created by local tribes in 2010 after a long legal battle to remove illegal settlers and stop the over harvesting of marine resources and the destruction of the island's wildlife habitat.
Located in Makira/ Ulawa province, Mulaulalo Island is a nesting place for the endangered Hawksbill Turtle and has an endemic species of pigeon, the Chestnut Bellied Monarch, among its wildlife.
A tribal chief and the chairman of the Mulaulalo Conservation Initiative, Dennis Marita, told Koroi Hawkins the 7500 US dollars in funding from the Rufford Foundation is a welcome validation of what the tribe has been trying to achieve.
DENNIS MARITA: When I came to the island as a young kid, in 1991 I was there and I can tell you that, the moment your feet touched the water you just feel the fish rubbing against your leg they were not frightened. Turtles were there and so the birds, everywhere. But when I came back ten years later in 2002 it was different like the place was dead, there were no fish and it was a sad sight that when I went up onto land I saw all these heaps of clam shells that were harvested. The trees were cut down, there was an endemic species of bird that was also there was called chestnut bellied monarch it is like a pigeon but it is a small one. You rarely see those birds anymore because people are just like hunting everyday and they are fishing everyday so. Anyway so we tried to get these people out of the island but it was quite difficult so what we did was took the case to the High Court, it took another two years before the decision was made in our favour. But then still they don't want to leave so it took us another year to go for what they call a law enforcement order from the High Courts and that was finally delivered in 2010. And from that moment we decided to place the island under conservation.
KOROI HAWKINS: And now it is 2015, has the island recovered? Are you seeing progress?
DM: It is so unbelievable and it is just like magical. The island itself is just like a living person you know, just within a span of two years things started coming back again. You started to see the fish coming back the turtles coming back the clamshells they started to sprout again and so it was just like magic you know.
KH: And so this has all been on your own money how have you funded this?
DM: Actually there was no funding support for this. It's all been a community initiative until I started to seek support elsewhere. I came across this particular foundation called the Rufford Foundation based in the UK. I contacted this organisation through a proposal. A drew up a proposal to Rufford Foundation and eventually towards the end of the year we got the funding.
KH: What is the funding for and how much is it?
DM: Actually we went into the first phase as newcomers and so the maximum for phase one is 5000 pounds. We requested an amount that was close to 5000 pounds and that's what they gave us. This funding is to support the conservation of the Hawksbill Turtle in particular. Based on the experiences that we have had in the past years, the island has always been a hub for the breeding of the Hawksbill Turtle.
KH: You've come a long way. How do you feel at this point in your journey and where are you going with this?
DM: It's such a huge achievement not only for me but for my people as well. It's more especially for our children, basically for their future to ensure that our children are there to see what they are supposed to see. Not only will they see it in books but also they will see it with their real eyes.
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