CAPTION: Gau islanders tag and release turtles to mark start of turtle monitoring on the island. Photo: WWF.
The Dau Ni Vonu (DnV) or Turtle Monitors network, first trialled by WWF South Pacific in the provinces of Macuata and Bua, has now expanded to Lomaiviti.
Nature conservation enthusiasts in the Sawaieke district on Gau island have observed with interest the growth of the turtle monitoring network championed by their ‘tauvu’s(traditional kinsmen) from Vanua Levu and have been inspired by the testimonies of one time turtle hunters.
“They have been going to turtle workshops and have been so motivated to be more actively involved in turtle monitoring work, to complement the setup of their marine protected areas,” said LaitiaTamata, the Marine Species Coordinator at WWF South Pacific.
Yadua island Dau Ni Vonu (turtle monitor) Pita Qarau, who accompanied the marine species team for awareness and monitoring training workshop to Gau island recently also shared the experiences from the far flung island in Bua province.
His remarkable transformation, from a one time champion turtle hunter who decimated the marine turtle population by the hundreds but now saves them by the hundreds more – stirred hearts and urged the setup of the turtle monitoring network on Gau Island.
A team of eight new DnVs, also serving the role of fish wardens were chosen and as part of their initiation into turtle monitoring work, drew up the nesting and foraging sites of the charismatic mega-fauna within their district.
“That marks the start of turtle monitoring work on Gau Island and it has been motivating as a conservationist to observe the enthusiasm and interest of islanders in helping protect turtles,” Tamata said.
“This breakthrough in Gau also marks one of the successes of the Macuata and Bua turtle monitoring program, in that, one time turtle hunters are now championing the cause of growing marine turtle populations and through peer sharing able to inspire others to do the same.
“It might not have brought a complete halt to turtle harvesting, and yes there is some illegal turtle harvesting still going on, but the situation has greatly improved with the start of the Dau Ni Vonu Program in Vanua Levu compared to times when there was an unbridled passion to decimate.
“What we are hopefully witnessing is a greater awareness about the importance of the marine turtle population and people are thinking twice before harvesting them willy nilly and that is progress at a level of the sustainable management of marine turtle populations.”
The DnV program on Vanua Levu was setup in 2010 and supports national efforts through the Fiji Sea Turtle Recovery Plan and the Turtle Moratorium to grow the marine turtle population.
The eight new DnV’s on Gau Island has been presented to the Takala-i-Gau and has been endorsed in the recent Island council meeting.
They will also undergo turtle monitoring work refresher training before the start of the 2013 turtle nesting season. The nesting season that will officially commence turtle monitoring work on Gau Island begins in September through to April 2014.