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Declare 16000 acre protected area

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 16, 2009) – Intent on protecting natural flora and fauna in their forests, six villages in Cakaudrove have signed a memorandum of agreement with Bird Life International to do just that over the next 10 years.

Eleven landowning units within the villages of Vusasivo, Nadavaci, Naqaravutu, Muana, Wailevu and Navetau signed the agreement earlier this year.

The villagers own land in the Natewa-Tunuloa community which was declared a protected area.

According to the agreement, the villagers are legally bound to reject the logging of their native timber by any logging company.

They are also bound to accept conservation of their forests for the protection of fauna and flora.

The Natewa-Tunuloa community protected area spans more than 6625 hectares of forests.

In a presentation to the Cakaudrove Provincial Council, Bird Life International said the Natewa-Tunuloa forest was of national significance.

"It is identified in the National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan as a site of national significance and also mentioned in the National Regional Tourism Strategy as an area that has the potential to provide regional community benefits.

"It is identified as a globally important site for the conservation of birds and biodiversity."

The conservation effort is especially geared at protecting the Silk Tail bird species or Lamprolia Victoriae which, according to the Bird Life International website, is categorised as a near threatened species because of its declining population.

According to Bird Life International the bird species that is endemic to Fiji is 'common and widespread on Taveuni and "highly localised' on Vanua Levu where it is restricted to the Natewa Peninsula".

The bird's population is rapidly declining because of logging.

"Its population at the Natewa peninsula was estimated at 3000 to 6000 pairs," the website stated.

"On Taveuni, where relatively little forest has been lost, 5000 to 8000 pairs were estimated in 2000. On Vanua Levu, the Natewa peninsula is already extensively logged and habitat continues to be lost due to logging, clearance for agriculture and conversion of logged forest to exotic plantations," the website said.

"Exploitation of mahogany plantations is a further risk."

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