After almost two decades, the Barana community is excited to see the return of the Northern common cuscus, Phalanger orientalis, also known as the grey cuscus.
This particular marsupial is not uncommon in the Solomon Islands and can be found in many substantially forested areas from coastal monsoon rainforest and gallery forest to remnant montane rainforest.
But for the Barana Community, the return of this marsupial signifies a new beginning.
“Before 2000 there used to be so many surrounding the community that at night you would literally hear them eating and moving around on tree tops while we sleep. We lost that for a while we think due to the logging and damage to the forest,” said Ms Melinda Kii, who is a member of the executive committee that helps manage Barana Park.
“Now with the initiative of the Barana Nature and Heritage Park our hearts are overwhelmed just to see a very healthy one yesterday that was let go again to be in the wilderness.”
Solomon Islands has the second highest terrestrial biodiversity in the Pacific. This biodiversity is under threat from unsustainable logging, inappropriate land use practices and over-exploitation of natural resources causing loss of habitats, extinction of species and degraded ecosystems.
“Forest clearing and deforestation activities such as logging and unmanaged milling are happening on the upper Lunga and Mataniko rivers and are directly affecting our water sources. For our community, the springs and wells closer to home have dried up and we now have to walk long distances to collect water for cooking, drinking and other domestic use. It is getting very difficult for the people,” Chief Puchavu of Barana community, Mt Austen once told SPREP in a workshop held in Honiara.
Despite the challenges and threats, the villagers are set on carrying out ecotourism activities to find ways to earn an income. Unlike logging, conservation is not always seen as having great monetary value in terms of income generation. But Barana leaders and others in the community are seeing value in a conservation approach to income generation.
“Our environment is about our resources, traditions, livelihood, history and the future. There are endless possibilities if we coordinate and plan our way of life,” Chief Chualu of the Barana community says.
A fee system for visitors will soon be implemented with the idea of providing a sustainable means of income for the community.
The PEBACC and UNDP support is helping with park rehabilitation and upgrades.
This article was published in the PEBACC Newsletter, Issue Jan-Mar 2020.