Teambuilding fun in the forest

On Friday the WCS Fiji staff headed off on an adventurous retreat to Colo-i-Suva Forest Park.  Various commitments conspired against a Christmas party this year, so we scheduled this away-day instead. We were even joined by our esteemed Community Liaison Officer, Didi, fresh off the boat from Savusavu and just registered for his Boatmaster training in Suva.

Just 10 minutes from Suva along the Prince’s Road, Colo-i-Suva is a mix of mahogany (planted in the 1940s and 50s) and native flora and fauna. We were glad that Akuila’s booming voice didn’t scare off all the wildlife as we spotted a a Barking Pigeon and a Blue Crested Broadbill in the tree tops.

Waisea and Margi gave us an insight into some traditional uses of forest plants, including natural ‘Fijian chewing gum’ (given to children to help develop their speech), ‘soap plant’ (also known as toilet paper!) with leaves that produce a lather, a plant with an inner stem that cures mouth ulcers and another with ‘menthal vapour’ roots to clear your nose.

Akuila led the way when we reached the waterfall at lower pools – straight onto the rope-swing and into the cool clean water!  After that Stacy couldn’t resist and others followed.  Waisea showed his climbing skills, confidently getting up into the high branches before backing out and retreating down to howls of laughter.

It was uphill all the way back, stopping to check out the big freshwater prawns and a great view over eastern Suva and the Rewa Delta.

Afterwards we had a lovely lunch at Raintree lodge as the TV showed Fiji losing to Scotland and England announced their intent at the Wellington Sevens by beating New Zealand – a great end to a wonderful day!

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

Cetacean spotting in Vatu-i-ra Seascape

Watching cetaceans play in waters of Fiji’s Vatu-i-Ra Seascape was a lovely experience. The whales and dolphins love to entertain while they guide travelers during bad weather, according to the village elders. Their performances are so varied; they breach, spin, spy-hop (when dolphins pop their heads above the surface and look around), flap their tail or flippers – all part of their communication system, but an amazing display of behaviour for us. They also make different noises underwater, sometimes to attract mates or just talk to each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was part of the 2012 WCS Fiji Cetacean Hotspot Survey (1st to 11th August), together with Margy and Waisea, community representatives, and Dr Cara Miller from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) as the cetacean expert to guide us. We were hosted in the beautiful village of Nasau in Ra Province, northeastern Viti Levu, where we were welcomed with lot of excitement.

On Day 1 of the survey we were rewarded with a sighting of a humpback whale as soon as we reached Vatu-i-Ra Island – a tiny speck in the waters of the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape, over 20 km from the nearest land. We started by testing two different methods for recording sightings: boat transects and land-based sightings from a vantage point with a 360° view of the open ocean. Later the land-based team joined the boat team due to bad weather preventing clear sightings from land. Day 2 was a day without any sightings, although we did manage to record some faint whale songs. I was getting anxious, hoping I would catch some close-up glimpses of the whales and dolphins recorded in previous years. Things improved on Day 3 as we spotted a pod of Bottlenose dolphin adults with calves – they were cute, fat, and fast swimmers. Much to our delight, one of the calves was spy-hoping while our cameras snapped. The same day we encountered a pod of Shortfin pilot whales scattered over a larger area, with one of the group coming to check us out – you can see a short clip of his visit below!

We had evening events every night where Waisea explained the day’s happenings to the villagers and we showed them videos, pictures and songs. All songs were recorded using a hydrophone provided by WDCS, so that the songs could be analysed later and compared cetacean songs from other regions. Some of the songs we recorded on Day 4 sounded like whale and dolphin rap, where the whales would sing first and the dolphins would respond to it! The adventure continued with plenty of whales and dolphins sighted on the 4th day – Spinner dolphins, Shortfin pilot whales and Humpback whales were all there, swimming happily in the water. After a break on Sunday, we were welcomed on Monday with deteriorating weather which restricted us to land-based survey for a few days. Finally we managed to complete our last few boat transects, with a few more sightings and songs recorded.

I returned very happy because we saw so many different cetaceans, and recorded songs almost every day – it was an adventurous trip!

WCS Fiji gratefully acknowledge funding from The Marisla Foundation to carry out this work.

More eggs, more fish!

Dancers hit the streets of Fiji last week, as Suva’s Hibiscus Festival saw Fiji’s largest ever Flash Mob! The mass boogie to the Bee Gees – “Stayin’ Alive” of course – was organised to draw attention to the plight of groupers – an easy and valuable target for fishermen when the fish meet to spawn in large aggregations in Fiji waters.

Watch the video of the dancers in action below! And yes, that is our Director Dr Stacy Jupiter in the front row…

The Flash Mob follows the launch of the National Spawning Aggregations Campaign, a partnership between WCS Fiji, SeaWeb, the Department of Fisheries and other organisations in the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas (FLMMA) Network. The ultimate goal of the campaign is to ensure that the fishery can continue to support communities and commerce in Fiji for the long-term. You can find out more in this Fiji Times article: http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=210447.

This project was kindly supported with a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Climate change adaptation, Fiji-style

Here are the 3 parts of Fiji One’s ‘Close Up’ show, including an interview with WCS Fiji Director Dr Stacy Jupiter. The footage was shot earlier this month in the remote Daria village, Wainunu, when the communities launched their network of 7 terrestrial, freshwater and marine protected areas. Luckily the sun shone for the filming; a rare treat in the famously rainy Wainunu.

This new protected area network covers 52 km2, with 6km2 in 4 periodically harvested fisheries closures (tabu areas) and the remaining 46km2 in 3 upland protected areas; equivalent to 5% of the Wainunu traditional fisheries management area and 17% of the district lands. The marine protected areas focus on resilient reefs which have the best chance of ensuring future food security in the face of climate change.

 

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

Part 3

The Adventures of Joji Goby

Like fish (and invertebrate) puppets? Want to see environmental education in action? Then watch this short video we have made about a recent WCS Fiji trip to five schools in Kubulau and Wainunu districts to launch our comic “The Adventures of Joji Goby” with puppet shows. The puppets were made from recycled materials by Anne O’Brien of Anniemals. The project was kindly supported by the Disney Friends for Change Programme.