The South Pacific Regional Environment Program declared 1995 the year of the turtle as sea turtles were disappearing rapidly. We had researched stories about turtles in North Efate earlier that year and went on to write a play called ‘I Am A Turtle’. The play toured around the villages of North Efate and long discussions took place in villages after the play. People had noticed turtles were disappearing, so they chose monitors in each village to help conserve the turtles that were left. Some villages immediately agreed to put a tabu on the killing of turtles and the eating of turtle eggs. The network is now called Vanua-Tai (meaning land and sea). This network has grown from 40 or so volunteers on Efate, to over 400 monitors based in coastal villages across Vanuatu’s islands.
What we do
Vanua-tai monitors make routine checks on nesting beaches, tag turtles and collect data on hatchlings and adult turtles. Vanua-tai has gone on to pilot turtle nest relocation methods for Hawskbill, Green and Leatherback turtles in Vanuatu and currently has two relocation sites in Malekula. These are the first turtle nest relocation sites in Vanuatu. Vanua-tai also works on conservation projects on land as well as at sea and monitors in North Efate are replanting mangroves to help combat coastal erosion as well as trying to combat the huge loss of mangroves that is happening round the coasts of Efate and the outer islands. Vanua-tai monitors work in partnership with Island Reach, a research and conservation vessel which provides technical assistance and transport to Vanua-tai monitors.
Why we do it
The Vanua-tai monitors have taken on the work of empowering and supporting their own communities to responsibly and sustainably use their marine and land resources. Vanua-tai believes that once communities see how much of the land and sea ecosystems are being lost, conservation of endangered populations such as turtles will follow. A documentary entitled ‘Vanua-Tai… of Land and Sea’ was made in 2004 highlighting the work of the monitors since their formation in 1995.