PRISTINE TETEPARE ISLAND A SOLOMONS MYSTERY

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Oct. 17) – Scientists, historians and community leaders in the Rendova, Roviana and Marovo areas in Solomon Islands’ Western Province still cannot explain why Tetepare, the largest uninhabited island in the Pacific, was abandoned nearly 200 years ago.

One recent theory is that the island is close to Kavachi underwater volcano, which erupts in the sea off Tetepare regularly and poisonous gases scared the original inhabitants away.

Their descendents have formed an association to take care of Tetepare in a way that can be maintained over time and contribute to the economy of the surrounding villages.

This means leaving it in its original state and allowing visitors to visit and see dense vegetation including old trees, exotic palms and tangles of roots of trees untouched for about 200 hundred years.

With a micro grant from the European Union they now have an administration and training building for staff and a three-bedroom island lodge to cater for visitors from different parts of the world to see Tetepare’s virgin bush, untouched by logging, gardening and other human activity.

It’s called eco-tourism and visitors abide by strict environment friendly codes of behavior such as not leaving rubbish around or cutting down trees and plants.

Visitors can watch crocodiles, go bush walking, snorkeling, turtle tagging and swimming at rivers and beaches.

When not catering for visitors, the Descendants Association are monitoring the islands resources - counting, measuring and recording information for scientists to analyze.

Most of the island is a Marine Protected Area designated where no extraction of resources is allowed.

However, landowners may still fish, dive for shells and other animals such as coconut crabs in some parts of the island and its reefs.

Since controlling the extraction of resources, monitors are reporting increasing numbers of such things as coconut crabs and trochus shell.

"Everybody needs to help make sure that nobody is diving inside. It’s like the small shop in your village: everybody knows that there is money and food inside.

"If we break in and steal everything now, we will have food for a few days but the shop will go out of business and the village will not have a store in the future," the Tetepare Descendents Association said in a recent news letter.

[PIR editor’s note: The small island of Tetepare is located in the southern region of the Solomon Islands’ Western Province – northwest of the capital city of Honiara.]

October 18, 2005

Solomon Star: http://www.solomonstarnews.com

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