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Conservation and sustainable management of Fiji's unique natural heritage

Ana Madigibuli
Saturday, July 15, 2017

PROTECTING Fiji's culturally important species, and endemic species and habitats, is the responsibility of everyone who calls Fiji home, and protecting Fiji's wildlife requires diligence.

Diligence is something that the team at NatureFiji-MareqetiViti know all too well.

NatureFiji-MareqetiViti is Fiji's only domestic membership-based organisation that works solely for the conservation and sustainable management of Fiji's unique natural heritage.

The dedicated team at NatureFiji-MareqetiViti generates interest among local communities and build local expertise in wildlife conservation and management — something that is crucial to ensuring that Fiji will continue to sustain future generations long after they are gone.

NatureFiji-MareqetiViti director Nunia Thomas-Moko said the organisation's mission was to enhance biodiversity and habitat conservation, protect endangered species, and promote sustainable use of Fiji's resources through the encouragement of collaborative conservation action, raising awareness, education, advocacy and conducting research and biodiversity information exchange.

"Our vision, and that of the many individuals, communities, corporates and donors who support us, is for Fiji to have a healthy environment and to maintain its diversity of species and habitats, its ecological integrity and resilience, parts of which are in pristine condition."

NatureFiji-MareqetiViti works directly with scientists and resource owners in research, educating, advocating and informing local people and the Government on reliable and up to date data on Fiji's resources.

Since its establishment in 2007, they have managed over 70 projects which have brought in over $3m species, habitat and stakeholder engagement.

"Our impact is evident in the curriculum — prior to 2007, there was not much mention of local wildlife in Fiji's school curriculum. If you ask a primary school student today to name an endemic and endangered species, they will call out the Fiji petrel or the Fiji flying fox. Our advocacy and research has put that there. This is a significant achievement for a home-grown organisation, and we are proud of our evidence based research and information," she said.

In 2008, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti launched the Fiji Endangered Species website, with up to date information on 50 of Fiji's endangered species.

Fijians will recognise many of these same species in Fiji's notes and coins: Fiji petrel, Fiji flying fox, tagimoucia, red throated lorikeet are some of the species featured.

"We recognise the value of different disciplinary approaches in seeking solutions to the many and varied natural heritage conservation problems and regularly review and evaluate activities and learn from successes and failures," she said.

In recognition of the value of the organisation, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti staff members sit, by invitation, in technical committees including the National Protected Areas Network, Fiji Species Working Group, National Wetlands Steering Committee, Management Authority of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species, and the National REDD+ steering committee.

"Through our projects with our partners such as BirdLife International, Wildlife Conservation Society, the National Trust of Fiji, Bats Conservation International and in collaboration with the Fiji Department of Forests and Department of Environment, and the local communities and our many other stakeholders, we have implemented ground-breaking conservation actions for seven of Fiji's endangered species."

The organisation's impact is nationwide with specific projects and site support groups on Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni, Kadavu and Gau — all of which are important bird areas for Fiji, and it needs to be monitored with local communities.

The organisation also holds itself accountable for members, partners and donors through independently audited finance and technical reports.

"In the past 10 years, we have been able to achieve our strategic objective to establish a membership base and sustainable organisation and to enhance understanding and value for natural heritage conservation among Fiji's children and leaders," she said.

"We believe that our biodiversity issues need to be locally driven — because there is no-one else in the world that we can depend on to do this. Our endemic species are found only in Fiji and nowhere else in the world, so it is our responsibility to ensure that we can co-exist, and that our children and future generations enjoy the same benefits that we do now from nature's free ecosystem services."

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