The Samoa Conservation Society (SCS) “Fa’asao Samoa” was launched in a short ceremony as part of the last day of Samoa’s National Environment Week on Friday November 7 at the To’oa Salamasina Hall, Sogi. The SCS is a non-profit organisation made up of a group of volunteers dedicated to conserving Samoa’s natural heritage and in particular, saving Samoa’s many threatened species of plants and animals from extinction. The society’s office is based at Vailima within the Conservation International (Pacific Islands) Office.
Of Samoa’s many thousands of native species of plants and animals, about 76 species are on the IUCN’s (the World Conservation Union) Red List of species considered to be at risk of extinction, although the true figure of Samoa’s threatened native species is probably much higher. The main threats to native species decline include invasive species, overharvesting, habitat degradation, pollution and climate change. Species considered threatened in Samoa include 52 coral species, 11 marine fish, 7 birds, 2 turtles, a land snail and one terrestrial mammal species (the Samoan flying fox). Additionally, there are a number of threatened marine species such as sharks, whales and dolphins which migrate through Samoan waters. The Samoa Conservation Society intends to work with local communities to raise awareness about Samoa’s unique natural heritage and the threats to its flora and fauna and to design conservation projects that could save those native species while helping Samoan communities achieve sustainable development.
The SCS has just received grant from the UK Government to save the Manumea, Samoa’s national bird, over the next 3 years. The Manumea is now considered Critically Endangered with only a few hundred birds remaining and is threatened by hunting, destruction of its forest habitat from logging and development pressures and from invasive species, such as rats and cats, which feed on eggs and young birds. The project is a partnership between the SCS, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in particular its Division of Environment and Conservation, the Australian NationalUniversity (ANU) in Canberra and other partners and will involve working with local communities to identify where the Manumea is still found, to raise awareness about its current status and to implement actions to save it.
The launch event was MC’d by Leatigaga Mark Bonin, a founding member of the society. The key note address was given by the Associate Minister of MNRE Faumuina Tiatia Liuga who welcomed the new partnership between MNRE and SCS and underscored the need to save the endangered biodiversity of Samoa. An address was also given by the British Consul in Samoa- HE Taulapapa Brenda Heather Latu who was proud to announce the UK Government’s support for the SCS and especially for the conservation of Samoa’s “little dodo” the Manumea. The President of the SCS Tofilau Tepa Suaesi noted the importance of working with communities to raise awareness and understanding of Samoa’s unique biodiversity and the development of village based programs that benefit the biodiversity as well as local communities. Finally, the Project Coordinator of the Manumea project, Rebecca Stirnemann, explained the objectives of the project including locating the Manumea and putting transmitters on them to better understand their breeding and feeding habits and the threats to their survival. She appealed to the public to support the project and to help the SCS locate the Manumea- which she called “Samoa’s treasure”.
At the end of the launch the audience was treated to a dance by two Manumea mascots used by the MNRE for their schools outreach programs while the beautiful call of the Manumea was played.
The SCS plans to have an AGM on Saturday Nov 29, 2014 at the Yacht Club 10am-12noon which will be open to any members of the public who may wish to join SCS. For more information on the Samoa Conservation Society please visit:https://samoaconservationsociety.wordpress.com/
From SCS Executive