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Natewa Tunuloa Peninsula, Fiji


The Natewa Peninsula is part of the island of Vanua Levu, one of the two largest islands that comprise Fiji, and was assigned as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) by Conservation International in 2005.1 The forest on the peninsula is identified as a Site of National Significance in the National Biodiversity Action Plan and the area is also designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International.2 High biodiversity of gobids and birds and the presence of the seven of the nine subspecies endemic to Vanua Levu island, such as the Silktail (Lamprolia victoriae), make this an important area to conserve.3 The lowland forest on the Peninsula still retains old growth forest, although this is under increasing threat from logging companies.  In 2009 local sub-clans (mataqalis) that own the forest land decided to protect an area of 6,000 hectares (ha) using sustainable management methods.

History and Management

Since 2005 BirdLife Fiji has been working with the communities of the Natewa Tunuloa Peninsula to promote conservation of avifauna and biodiversity, following the designation of the Natewa and Tunaloa Peninsula as an IBA of 17,600 ha.3,4 The first awareness workshop was held by BirdLife in 2005 on the peninsula for the local communities, and included the participation of the Provincial Council and the Departments of Forestry, Agriculture and Land Use.2 During this workshop the communities nominated representatives to form a Site Support Group (SSG), made up of local volunteers who would work to conserve and sustainably develop their forest.2 BirdLife also initiated a national-level project in 2006 on ‘Community-Based Conservation Groups at Fiji’s Key Conservation Sites’ aimed at building the capacity of conservation experts in Fiji, so they can conserve forest resources through establishing protected areas, management planning and monitoring. These experts will then train the local community in forestry management techniques.5 2006 also saw the establishment of Fiji’s first NGO dedicated to terrestrial conservation, Mareqeti Viti (NatureFiji).5

A Silktail reserve was proposed for the Peninsula, but was never gazetted, and hence parts of this area have now being converted to mahogany plantations, although the bird itself is protected under Fijian law.11 Several sub-clans (mataqalis) have declined offers by timber companies in the past to sell their forest lands, and have instead looked to generate income in more sustainable ways.6 Five of these clans signed a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with BirdLife International Fji Programme in 2006 to protect their forests from agriculture, commercial logging and other degradation.

Following the end of this period, BirdLife organised a workshop in February 2009 in Navetau village, which was attended by more than 30 local people. It resulted in 6,000 ha being declared by 11 mataqalis as a protected area that will be sustainably managed for the next 10 years, and a new MOU was signed.4 These 11 land-owning mataqalis are namely Balabala, Namataloa, Nakaulau, Vakaliyaca, Valelevu (Tunuloa), Vosasivo, Naivaka, Namako, Wailevu, Benau-i-Ra and Benau-i-Cake, which reside in the six villages within the IBA.2  A draft management plan for this area was agreed, and the community formed a Natewa Yabula Committee (yabula meaning ‘natural resources’ in the Fijian language) and reformed the SSG to include representatives from all of the six villages.

Conservation Values

The Peninsula area contains untouched old growth forest, which supports populations of the distinct Orange Dove (Ptilinopus victor), the Shy Ground-dove (Gallicolumba stairi), the endemic Black-throated Shrikebill (Clytorhyncus nigrogularis) and the endemic Silktail, which is only found on the Natewa Peninsula and Taveuni island in Fiji.4,5 There are two subspecies of the Silktail, the smaller, more richly coloured L. v. kleinschmidti resides on the Natewa Peninsula, whereas L. v. victoriae is found on Taveuni.3 Locally the Siktail is known as ‘Sisi’, and only dwells in the mature sub-stage of the forest, very rarely emerging into open areas or into the forest canopy.7 It is listed as Near Threatened on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, and the Natewa subspecies population is estimated at 3,000-6,000 pairs.8 The Shy Ground-dove (also referred to as the Friendly Ground-dove) and Black-throated Shrikebill are also listed in IUCN’s Red List as Vulnerable.

Sustainably managing forest resources is crucial to retaining water quality and reserves, the provision of food resources and lowering flooding risks. Preventing deforestation also maintains fish populations as it allows connectivity for the migratory amphidromous gobies (Gobiidae family), which move between saltwater and freshwater habitats, that are prominent in Fiji. 9 The Buca River system on the Natewa Peninsula has high goby diversity, with at least a third of the endemic species of Fiji being present here and the largest breeding population of the endemic Orange-Spotted Scaleless Goby, Schismatogobius chrysonotus.10


Much of Fiji’s forests have been loss through deforestation for development, agriculture, plantations and timber. On the Peninsula logging companies and the conversion of forest to mahogany plantations are the main contributors to deforestation, with forest loss estimated at 0.5-0.8% per annum.11 Invasive species have also become problematic, with the construction of roads increasing the access for agricultural pests and other alien species. The Silktail faces competition from invasive bird species, like mynah (Sturnidae family) and bulbul (Pycnonotidae family) birds and is also threatened by introduced mammal predators.7 The small Indian Mongoose, Herpestes javanicus, is an introduced species on Vanua Levu island, and as a opportunistic predator on amphibians, birds, invertebrates and plants, has been linked to multiple species declines.12

What’s Next?

The management plan is being finalised, with input from communities, stakeholders and BirdLife International. This plan will provide a mechanism to deal with concerns and threats to the declared area, and provide guidelines for effective biodiversity conservation alongside developing a long-term financial strategy for the communities. A mechanism will also be put in place to ensure that the benefits are equally distributed among the 11 mataqalis.2

The SSG hopes to receive legal recognition and, in the future, to gain sufficient knowledge from training to be able to fundraise to sustain its own activities. In the mean time the SSG will manage and assist with development projects within the villages, including alternative livelihood projects.2


1.      Olson, D., Farley, L., Patrick, A., Watling, D., Tuiwawa, M., Masibalavu, V., Lenoa, L., Bogiva, A., Qauqau, I., Atherton, J., Caginitoba, A., Tokota'a, M., Prasad, S., Naisilisili, W., Raikabula, A., Mailautoka, K., Morley, C. &  Allnutt, T. (2009) Priority forests for conservation in Fiji: landscapes, hotspots and ecological processes. Oryx, 44(1):57-70. http://www.chorographics.com/pdfs/olson_et_al_2009.pdf  

2.      Ravuso, M.V. (2009) Briefing Paper on the Natewa Tunuloa ‘Community-declared’ Protected Area. BirdLife International Fiji Programme: Suva, Fiji.  

3.      BirdLife International (2009) Important Bird Area factsheet: Natewa/Tunuloa Peninsula, Fiji. Accessed 18/03/2010. http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/ebas/index.html?action=SitHTMDetails.asp&sid=20320&m=0

4.      BirdLife (2009) Communities protect Fijian forests. BirdLife International. Accessed 18/03/2010. http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2009/03/fiji_forest.html

5.      BirdLife International (2006) From Prioritisation to Conservation Action: Community-Based Conservation Groups at Fiji’s Key Conservation Sites. BirdLife International. Accessed 18/03/2010.  http://www.birdlife.org/action/science/sites/pacific_ibas/fiji/index.html

6.      BirdLife International (2010) BirdLife Pacific Needs Funding: Supporting the ‘Sisi Initiative Youth Programme’ in Fiji. BirdLife International. Accessed 18/03/2010.  http://www.birdlife.org/regional/pacific/pacific_in_action/funding_needs.html

7.      NatureFiji (2010) Endangered Species of Fiji: Silktail. Accessed 18/03/2010. http://www.naturefiji.org/endspecies.php?info=Silktail

8.      IUCN (2010) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Lamprolia victoriae. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Accessed 18/03/2010. http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/147016/0

9.      Jenkins, A.P, Jupiter, S.D., Qauqau, I. & Atherton, J. (2009) The importance of ecosystem-based management for conserving aquatic migratory pathways on tropical high islands: a case study from Fiji. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 20(2): 224-238.

10.   Jenkins, A.P. (2003) A preliminary investigation of priority Ichthyofaunal Areas for Assessing Representation in Fiji’s Network of Forest Reserves. Technical Report to the Wildlife Conservation Society. Wetlands International - Oceania and Wildlife Conservation Society - South Pacific, Suva, Fiji. http://pdf.dec.org/pdf_docs/Pnacx238.pdf

11.   BirdLife International (2009) Species factsheet: Lamprolia victoriae. BirdLife International. Accessed on 18/3/2010. http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=6142&m=0

12.   Morley, C.G. (2004) Has the invasive mongoose Herpestes javanicus yet reached the island of Taveuni, Fiji? Oryx 38(4): 458-460


Page last updated April 2010