Caption: Emosi Time, the veteran turtle monitor from Kavewa island.
Passion for turtle protection continues to grow with 17 new monitors joining the honorable ranks of those few men that have volunteered and vowed to protect the survival of the world’s ancient mariners.
The new monitors are from Naiviqiri, Nasau, Tavea villages, Yaqaga, and Galoa islands in Bua along with those from Korotubu village and Mali Island in Macuata province.
The new inclusion also sees the expansion of the Dau Ni Vonu network to Galoa Island, reportedly one of the illegal turtle harvesting hotspots in Bua province.
With the new membership, the Dau Ni Vonu network now has over 80 monitors campaigning for turtle protection on Vanua Levu, Moturiki and Gau islands, a fact that augurs well for the goals of the National Sea Turtle Recovery Plan of growing sea turtle numbers.
The Dau Ni Vonu network converged on Galoa Island recently where new DnV teams signed their terms of references and received an educational baptism into turtle monitoring work organised by the Marine Species team from WWF South Pacific.
Marine Species Coordinator Laitia Tamata said the induction package focused on a turtle’s biology, turtle tagging, protection of nesting sites and nesting beach surveys and the moratorium banning turtle harvesting and a fish warden refresher training.
Equipped with this information, a turtle monitor can confidently go about his duties that also involve advocating for turtle protection amongst peers, relatives, and friends within the communities they live in.
Awareness is an important tool a monitor must use to fight illegal turtle harvesting, sharing the turtle gospel when and wherever possible, at village and district meetings, and make a stand for turtle protection that includes abstinence from turtle meat consumption.
“It’s not always an easy thing for a turtle monitor to stand up in front of their village or elders and advocate for turtle protection because they challenge prevailing false beliefs that turtles cannot go extinct,” Tamata said.
“It takes a mixture of passion and bravery to admonish and vanquish those notions and often times for a period of time during the start of their work, a turtle monitor stands alone.
“The fact that they abstain from eating turtle meat to show a steadfast commitment to the cause, even if the turtle is legally harvested, is ridiculed by relatives and peers; to the point where they may be taunted about their turtle hunting past.
“All of our turtle monitors were one time turtle hunters, infamous for killing turtles but then one day they changed thanks to the awareness about turtle protection that is occurring.
“It’s this changed person that fellow kin view sceptically at first but the history of the DnV network has shown that eventually with perseverance and time, a turtle monitor effects changes within their community, in some cases a whole island ends up rallying behind turtle protection.
“Turtle conservation work in Fiji owes a lot to these brave individuals/change makers,” he said.
The Dau Ni Vonu network, first established in 2010 is coordinated by the WWF South Pacific Marine Species Programme and supports the Fiji Sea Turtle Recovery Plan of growing sea turtle numbers and the Turtle Moratorium banning the illegal harvest of this culturally iconic ancient creature.