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By Joy A. Rikimae

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Oct. 24) – Tetepare Island in the Solomon Islands Western Province is rated as the largest uninhabited island in the Pacific region.

[PIR editor’s note: Western Province is located to the northwest of Guadalcanal where the Solomons capital of Honiara is situated.]

South Pacific Regional Environment Program Director Asterio Takesi gave the rating at the opening of a conservation conference in Papua New Guinea this week. The weeklong eighth Pacific Islands conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas is being held at Alotau in Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay Province.

Mr. Takesi said Tetepare Island, Bouma Heritage Park in Fiji, and the Rimatara Lorikeet’s return to Atiu in the Cook Islands are outstanding examples of governments’ and communities’ commitments to the need to conserve Pacific heritage.

He said these communities have taken initiative to conserve key areas.

Tetepare Island is conserved and managed by the people of Tetepare Descendents Association.

[PIR editor’s note: According to the Tetepare Descendents Association website, the 6,000 descendants of the original Tetepare islanders live in villages on islands throughout the Western Province of the Solomons. The Tetepare Descendants Association represents the landowners of Tetepare and has over 2,000 members. Part of the island was converted to a coconut plantation in the early 1900’s, but the island was abandoned during World War II.]

But Mr. Takesi said these conservation efforts must be supported and maintained.

"Unfortunately, the biodiversity extinction trend and loss of habitat especially our forests continues unabated," he said. "We must recognize that if these trends continue not only will we lose our unique Pacific biodiversity but also the foundation for community livelihoods and national sustainable development and possibly the resilience to deal with climate change impacts."

Mr. Takesi said a recent assessment of the remaining forest of the Solomon Islands estimated that only a few years of commercial timber remains at the current extraction rates.

He also pointed out that despite national laws prohibiting large scale harvesting of regional resources, Solomon Islands bottled-nosed dolphins have been exported.

"This is contrary to the intent of the regional agreement on cetacean conservation signed last year," he said.

Mr. Takesi said he believed the review of the round table for Nature conservation and monitoring action at this meeting will provide an excellent basis for the Pacific to move forward in designing the next five year Action Strategy for the region.

Tetepare’s representative, Allan Tippet Bero is also attending this conference.

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