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Conservation rangers monitor Kolombangara
Kolombangara Island Biodiversity Conservation Association (KIBCA) has six new rangers for managing its 20,000 hectare Conservation Protected Area. They are Laeneck Vavsegaiva from Hunda, Victor Kelly from Pine, Rexy Loka from Kena, Bryce Kanavari from Ariatu, Barnabas Ghele from Ghatere, and Anansa Dakei from Ringgi. KIBCA is particularly pleased to see Anansa join the ranger program as it hopes to promote a healthy gender balance in all its activities.
The team ranges in age from 18 to 52 and none of them has worked as a ranger before. Their regular duties include keeping the hiking tracks free of fallen trees and other hazards, constructing signs and meeting with community members to spread the message about conservation.
The rangers also fulfil an important role in monitoring the presence of certain species of frog and birds in partnership with Kolombangara Forests Products Limited (KFPL). KFPL leases about two-thirds of Kolombangara in which they conduct plantation logging under Forest Stewardship Council certification. Monitoring the health and condition presence of native plants and animals is a requirement under this certification. It helps to assess the impact of plantation logging on native ecosystems.
Another important task for the rangers is monitoring turtles. Several places on the north coast and west coast of Kolombangara provide suitable habitat for Hawksbill turtles. These animals are endangered species and it is important to make regular checks on their numbers and on the health of their preferred habitat. Monitoring is conducted by boat at night when the turtles come to rest closer to shore.
KIBCA’s rangers are being trained by Peter Butler, a volunteer with the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program. Peter has over 25 years’ experience working in national parks as a ranger and is delighted to see the enthusiasm shown by the rangers, no job seems too big for them to tackle. Peter said “I have been amazed to see how the rangers are coming together as a team in such a short time and how they develop solutions to overcome problems. In Australia we had access to a variety of different tools, but here the rangers can achieve all sorts of things with just a bush knife and in the roughest of conditions. They never seem to be fazed by Kolombangara’s endless rain and the hike up the volcano is for them, literally “a walk in the park!”
The rangers have had several opportunities to attend training programs including marine management training at Tetepare sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History and a Reef to Ridge Awareness Workshop run by World Wildlife Fund in Choiseul. More recently, rangers have attended training in Biocultural Values at Munda. KIBCA’s Coordinator Ferguson Vaghi said he is proud of the achievements of the new ranger team. “I believe the rangers are making a valuable contribution to KIBCA and will become important ambassadors for conservation”.
KIBCA’s Ranger Program is supported by CEPF (Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund) and UNDP (United Nations Development Program).