Mary Raui McDonald from Te Ipukarea Society recently returned from an Environmental sustainability and management workshop that was held in Brunei Darussalam.
This was a last-minute opportunity which was brought to our attention by the Cook Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI).
The workshop was funded by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the government of Brunei Darussalam. It provided an opportunity for 18 participants, including six from the South Pacific Island nations who work in biodiversity or environmental sustainable management.
Biodiversity is one of Te Ipukarea Society five strategic areas, and the society carries out various conservation projects related to this.
With Te Ipukarea Society now being a full Partner for Birdlife International, a number of biodiversity projects carried out by TIS are closely related with native and endemic Cook Islands birds.
McDonaldwas able to share with the workshop participants more about the society’s recent rat eradication work conducted on Suwarrow Atoll.
The participants were interested in Suwarrow’s rich biodiversity, as well as the strict regulations that are enforced by park rangers for passing yachts, especially in terms of meeting strict quarantine measures.
The workshop, which ran for a week, looked closely into tropical biology, both terrestrial and marine. A series of lectures were delivered by experts in the fields of biodiversity, environmental issues and environmental policy.
The lectures were complemented with field trip activities. Participants visited the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre (KBFC).
The world class field research centre is part of the Institute for Biodiversity and Environmental Research, established in 1985 at the University Brunei Darussalam. The KBFC is located deep in Brunei’s unspoiled rain forest. Access to the research centre is mainly done by “longboats” navigating a long and windy river into Ulu Temburong National Park.
Brunei has over 15,000 plant species, 2,000 species of trees, 300 bird species as well as mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Notable is the Proboscis monkey (Nagalis larvatus) with a nose up to 100mm long, eight species of Hornbill birds, including the rare Rhinoceros hornbill, and two species of crocodile-the Estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) and the false gharial (Tomistoma schlegelii).
It is believed that there are still plant and animal species waiting to be discovered. However, KBFC is now threatened by increasing anthropogenic (man-made) threats and natural disasters, making it a unique case study site to practice sustainable management methods and understand how the rain forest ecosystems respond to these induced impacts.
Participants were given a hands-on experience in the KBFC, where they were introduced to various techniques and tools used to better understand forest dynamics and ecology, as well as how to obtain relevant research data.
Te Ipukarea Society looks to draw more on the new expertise learnt by applying skills when working with our endemic Kakerori bird found within the Takitumu Conservation Area, and during observational studies on a couple of our cloud forest environments such as Te Kou and Te Manga.
TIS thanks the Commonwealth Secretariat and the government of Brunei Darussalam for funding this opportunity to develop biodiversity skills and knowledge within the Pacific region, and the Cook Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration for passing on the opportunity.