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Conservation in Fiji - Monthly Update - December 2014
2014. Wow what a year! The Project has achieved so much and has come so far in our 1st year, not only for the Sharks but the community too! A huge thank you goes out to all Staff and Volunteers for your amazing contribution!
This month has been filled with excitement and joy for our Shark Warriors! December, Christmas time and NYE!
For Christmas the Projects Abroad Fiji Conservation Team was given the task of creating a Christmas tree that represented their project. So our Shark Warriors went on a beach cleanup and in the process collected all sorts of plastic bottles. Then, using other recycled materials, they created a Recycled Christmas Tree made up of plastic bottles and other recycled materials decorated with tinsel. It was a fun and rewarding experience for all volunteers especially as it gave them a chance to ‘trim a tree’.
On Christmas day the volunteers got together and made a delicious Christmas lunch and dessert with food from each of their own countries in mind! They exchanged gifts, relaxed, and swam in the pool. For many of them this was their first ever ‘Sunny’ Christmas!
For New Years Eve the Volunteers and Staff had an 80’s themed NYE party, and with teased hair and double denim they danced their way into the 2015!
Community + Dirty Day
Once again we had the absolute pleasure of working with The Happy Homes Trust this month, not only for our Community Days but also for our monthly Dirty Day!
This month we went over to help Elizabeth, the founder of The Happy Home Trust. We divided our volunteers into 2 groups, where one group helped around the house by painting the house, creating a garden, and general clean up as well taking care of the residents’ children. The other group went to Serina’s House, a young girl who suffers with Cerebral Palsy.
Serina has no gross motor skills, which means that she can’t walk or talk and needs constant care all year round. The Volunteers helped build a ramp to accommodate her wheelchair which was being donated by Wendy, an expatriate from Australia, who also volunteers for the Happy Home. They also performed minor repairs to her house. Two volunteers gave her a bath, treated her sores and spent the day just hanging out with her. Everyone had an eventful and fulfilling day!
As it was nearing Christmas on our Community Day our Shark Warriors and Staff organized a Christmas Party for the children of The Happy Homes Trust. Games were played, cake and lovo was consumed, and the pool filled with children and the beach was teaming with smiles! It was an incredible experience for the children and a moving one for our volunteers. We all feel very privileged to be a part of such an amazing organization.
This is an exciting time for our Mangrove Project. All our mangrove propagules, in all of our various nurseries, are fast approaching the appropriate time for when they can be replanted along the coast or river of the Serua Province. In the meantime, the villagers and schools have been enthusiastic with the care of the plants, it is encouraging to see the young kids helping and learning about the importance of the Mangals.
For the Projects 1st Birthday in January we are celebrating in style by planting 365 Mangroves propagules, 1 for each day of the year, on an island close to our tagging site. This enables us to closely monitor the growth of the plants. The Mangrove Reforestation Project (MAP) contributes to a healthy and safe environment for the sharks, numerous fish species, birds and other marine organisms and benefits the local community in terms of food security and coastal protection.
The last months have been some of the most difficult months for the tagging project. Since the end of August we have not been able to catch any juvenile sharks. Although now the birthing time for three different species, bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), lemon shark (Negaprion acutidens) and scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini), has just started - making our tagging trips much more successful.
During the month of December the volunteers were able to catch, measure and tag one Eagle Ray (Aetobatus narinari), two juvenile scalloped hammerheads, and two juvenile lemon sharks. All four sharks were neonates (newborn) since the umbilical scar was open in all four cases. In addition, our collaborators from the University of South Pacific (USP) were able to capture and tag a newborn bulls shark in the last week in the Rewa River close to Suva.
The challenge for the next months will be try to catch neonate bull sharks in the Navua River. We know it is possible since fishermen from the area have seen them several of them lately. In addition, some pregnant females we know, from Shark Reef Marine Reserve (SRMR), showed up in the last month weeks without being pregnant, which confirms the birthing season has begun.
Survey Dives and BRUVs
The Survey dives in December were once again productive. On top of the White tip reef sharks that we generally see on many of our dives (35 this month), we saw 11 Bull sharks in the Shark Reef Marine Reserve (SRMR), 29 Grey Reef Sharks, 8 rays, 1 Spotted Eagle Ray and to top it off 26 Turtles!
In a number of dives the Turtles would interact with the divers and at times allow us to swim with them for several minutes!
This month we visited the SRMR only a few times as the wind did not favour us on all trips. However this proved to be exciting for everyone as not only is the coral healthy and the fish population abundant, but we were welcomed by Bull Sharks (many of which we regularly ID on our Shark feeding dives) as well as Grey Reef Sharks and a Spotted Eagle Ray!
Preview for Next month: two new species are spotted for the first time ever on the Survey Dives!
On the BRUVs this month we had a number of White Tips, Lemon Sharks, Blue Spotted Sting Rays AND the first ever Guitar Fish (Rhinobatidae) seen by the Project!
Our BRUV drops are proving more and more interesting and showing us not only what we already knew was out there, but what we had hoped was out there!
That being said, no data is still good data! When we see nothing on the BRUV in MPAs and non MPAs, the data is important in showing which areas are being protected and which are not.
2014 was a huge year for us and we are so excited for what 2015 will bring! Once again a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed!