Under the CEPF funded project "Songs and Stories of Biodiversity", small grantee Canal Studio's environmental team traveled to two remote villages in the north west of Espiritu Santo island in the Santo Mountain Chain, one of the priority key biodiversity areas in East Melanesia.
The purpose of the visit was to dialogue with the community to understand their current environmental practices and important bio-cultural traditions particularly in regards to a number of threatened species endemic to this area.
In the village of Hokua, the team discovered that the chief and his community enforce a hunting and fishing ban on threatened species at certain times during the year. The chief stated that over-exploitation of species such as the Vanuatu Imperial Pigeon, Palm Lorikeet and Santo Cruz Ground-dove is a major problem. and protection through these community measures is helping to ensure that their populations do not face potential extinction. However, there is currently no prohibition on the hunting of the Vanuatu flying fox (despite being on the list of threatened species) as the community see it as a direct competitor for other food sources.
In Penaoru village, the ancestors of the community began banning the hunting of wild hogs for the sole reason of maintaining the numbers of pigs in their forests. The ban was so successful that hunting for wild pigs in Penaoru is now easy as villagers do not have to walk very far to hunt them. The hog hunting ban led to the local Chiefs taking the initiative to protect other food and resources in the forest. With the support of the SANMA Provincial Government and much work done by the Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation, the Penouru community launched a Conservation Management Plan in 2014 that links customary and modern practices. This legally endorsed management plan is executed by a village committee who oversees the management of the protected area.
Canal Studio's Songs and Stories of Biodiversity project activities provided important information for the community to consider in managing their protected area, becoming more informed of the listed vulnerable species inhabiting their environment.
The highlight of the visit was seeing the Voutmele Palm, which is only found in the Penaoru Protected Area. When the Canal Studio environmental team informed the community of its threatened status, the elders were able to identify it to them thus increasing their awareness of the need to protect it.