Tetepare is protected and managed by the TDA. The entire island has been set aside for conservation; in addition, the TDA has also established a 13km-long Marine Protected Area (MPA) which is a no-take zone. This permanently closed area runs from the western tip of the island on Mbo Point at S 8º 42.22' E 157º 26.36' to the eastern edge of Soe Island at S 8º 43.62', E 154º 47.34' along the southern weather coast of Tetepare. This permanent closure also includes the land area from the low water mark to 500m inland. The MPA protects Tetepare’s reefs, lagoons and coastal waters to all harvesting, forming the largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Solomon Islands.
TDA employs rangers to patrol the island and the MPA. Signs have been installed and are maintained at each end of the MPA. TDA rangers have enforced this closed area since 2003. The aim of this MPA is to provide a habitat which protects the reproduction of marine species and gives TDA the opportunity to preserve a portion of Tetepare's pristine ecosystem in its natural state.
In June 2010, Descendant members of the TDA and their communities also decided to create and patrol two further, temporary MPAs around Tetepare, to help stocks recover from a recent increase in harvesting. The temporary MPAs will operate on a one-year-on, one-year-off rolling basis.
The TDA also runs numerous monitoring programs to support our conservation work:
TDA marine monitors perform regular Reef Check surveys to assess the health and abundance of the reefs around the island. Additionally TDA marine monitors undertake trochus, beche de mer, green snail, and crayfish surveys to monitor the populations of these natural resources. Surveys are carried out within the MPA and compared to the data collected from outside the MPA. Comparisons over time at each location are also made. This comparison provides an accurate account of the effects of harvest pressure and forms the basis for future management decisions.
FISH BIOMASS SURVEYS
In conjunction with WWF and Wetlands International, the TDA are trying to establish fish specific surveys targeting locally relevant fish species, and recording biomass. This is the data needed to determine fish stocks and sustainable harvesting numbers.
Seagrass beds are present along more than 10km of coastline along the southern (weather) coast of Tetepare Island, protected by fringing reef. Four km of seagrass coastline is now protected within the Tetepare Island Marine Protected Area (MPA). Seagrass Watch monitoring is conducted annually on Tetepare Island with monitoring initiated in 2005. Monitoring is conducted by women from neighbouring Rano and Lokuru villages who have been trained in seagrass watch methods. The method measures the presence and composition of seagrass species over time. It is a standardised method easily learned and implemented by community groups.
Our turtle program is our flagship conservation program and involves tagging turtles as well as monitoring and protecting nesting beaches, nesting turtles, nests and hatchlings.
Tetepare is an important nesting ground for the critically endangered Western Pacific leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), which is on the brink of extinction. Numbers of leatherbacks in the Western Pacific Ocean have declined by more than 95 per cent since the 1980s due to excessive egg harvesting, hunting of nesting adult turtles, marine pollution, climate change and accidental deaths from commercial fishing activities.
Tetepare has approximately 2km of beaches used for nesting by leatherback turtles and endangered green turtles (Chelonia mydas). TDA rangers and turtle monitors monitor these beaches throughout the nesting season from September to April. They work in shifts to man the beaches throughout the nesting and hatching seasons, performing all-night foot patrols of nesting beaches, tagging nesting females, protecting and relocating nests, and collecting data on egg numbers, sizes, clutch size and hatching success of leatherbacks and greens.
During nesting season, data is collected on any turtle that comes up to nest on the beaches, including green and hawksbill turtles. Nests are relocated to higher ground if they are below the high-tide mark and protected from predators with predator exclusion cages. Nests on Tetepare are particularly vulnerable to predation by monitor lizards.
Turtle nests are monitored throughout their incubation.
The aim of our nest monitoring program is to protect turtles, increase hatchling numbers for this critically endangered species, and collect data for the management of Tetepare's turtle habitat.
Hatchling success has been growing each year since our turtle program began.
THE TETEPARE TURTLE RODEO
Rangers frequently patrol our shallow lagoonal waters looking for foraging green and hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricate). Once a turtle is spotted the Rangers leap from their boat to capture them. The turtle is then brought into the boat, where it is measured and tagged. All the data is recorded and sent to SPREP (South Pacific Regional Environmental Program) to be included in their data base.
There are a number of benefits to this method including:
• Random selection of individuals
• Regular collection of data
• Eco-lodge guests are able to watch and learn first-hand about turtle conservation
We run an incentive program on the weathercoast of Rendova Island (adjacent to Tetepare) to encourage local villagers to protect leatherback turtles and nests on their beaches.
In the Solomon Islands, like many places in the world where leatherbacks nest, people routinely eat the eggs of leatherbacks and kill nesting mothers for their meat. On Rendova Island, near Tetepare, the villages of Baniata, Retavo and Havilla are home to key leatherback nesting beaches. We have developed a program to provide financial incentives for people from these villages to record sightings of nesting leatherbacks and to protect the nests, the hatchlings and the adult mothers.
Each person who finds a nesting leatherback or a nest, and reports their find to their village turtle monitor, receives a financial reward. If the nest they discover hatches successfully, they receive an additional financial reward. The TDA also donates money to a community fund for each nesting turtle and nest reported to the turtle monitor, and for each nest that hatches successfully. This program has proved very successful, and has resulted in far higher hatching numbers on these beaches.
This program runs from September to April each year and is coordinated by TDA conservation staff.
The TDA are keen to implement a formal monitoring program using full-time Rangers and Monitors on Rendova during the turtle monitoring season. This would be based on the existing Tetepare Monitoring program and we are hoping to secure funding for this programme in the very near future. We would be very grateful if any of our web visitors and guests can help us secure funding for this important piece of work.