The IUCN Species Forum earlier this month was a positive experience for WCS Fiji’s Kini Koto (aka KK), who attended the conference to present some of our work, and to distribute copies of The Adventures of Joji Goby, our comic. The conference theme of Moving from Science to Conservation focused minds on trying to restore and maintain some of the world’s Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable and endemic species.
KK presented on Human and climate impacts on decline of Fiji’s threatened freshwater fishes – a topic about which the audience had plenty of questions regarding the threats faced by these fish and the conservation actions being taken. WCS Fiji, in Moving from Science to Conservation, have carried out marine and freshwater scientific research, and provided the results of this research back to communities through consultation workshops. These workshops are designed to help communities learn about best-practice for looking after their natural resources, and to identify the best locations to protect in order to conserve these resources. Future food security is a major consideration in these decisions, since rural communities in Vanua Levu depend heavily on the environment to provide their subsistence needs. Communities sit together – either in villages or tribes – as they decide on protected areas covering their forests, rivers, mangroves and coral reefs. After drawing the protected area (tabu) boundaries, the communities write management rules for these areas and for the wider district.
Not only does the process of establishing management rules involve the men, women and youth from each village, but WCS Fiji are also getting the attention of school children, through a comic book about the adventurous lifecycle of a freshwater goby. The comic book is presented to schools alongside a puppet show to bring the conservation message to life (KK plays the hero, Joji Goby, in the show!). KK was delighted to hand-deliver the comic book to the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Gordon Darcy Lilo, who was a special guest at the IUCN Species Forum. The icing on the cake was an invitation from Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, who asked WCS Fiji to become a member of the IUCN/Wetlands International Freshwater Fish Specialist group.
The production of the comic book and puppet shows were made possible by the kind support of the Disney Friends for Change Programme.