AHURA RESORTS CONSERVATION FOUNDATION
As the 100% Fijian owned and operating company of Likuliku Lagoon Resort and Malolo Island Resort on the island of Malolo Levu, we live and operate in a pristine but fragile ecosystem that traverses both sea and land. As a Resort company operating in such a pristine and sensitive environment, we support wholly the concept of sustainable tourism and believe that any development in such areas carries not only a legal but also a moral responsibility to ensure that the environment is not degraded through irresponsible activities and practices.
To that end, we have established the Ahura Resorts Conservation Foundation in order to support and protect Ahura’s environmental initiatives which include:
- reforestation of the tropical dry forest including the dry forest nursery and reforestation program on Malolo Levu, Fiji
- the Fiji crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis) breeding, catch and release rehabilitation program and assurance colony
- extensive coral planting projects and reef protection initiatives of marine flora and fauna on both Resort reefs and surrounding reefs of Mociu island
- Mociu Island environment rehabilitation
- educating staff, resource owners, villagers and guests of Ahura’s resorts on environment practices and initiatives
- creation of marine parks and natural trails
- environmental research
- training, education and development of Ahura staff on sustainable environmental practices
- purchase of equipment and resources to support environment initiatives of the Foundation
- provide donors with a secure platform to raise funds in order to fulfil the environmental initiatives of Ahura mentioned in (a) to (i) above and any other further environmental initiative Ahura may undertake.
The Ahura Resorts Conservation Foundation is a charitable entity and as such will be relying on the goodwill of patrons and donors to ensure we can carry on our important initiatives.
NOTE: Due to Covid border closures, the resorts remain closed until further notice and therefore, all conservation projects are currently only in caretaker mode.
THE KEY INITIATIVES
Tropical Dry Forest Restoration and Reforestation Program:
Tropical dry forests are forests located in dry areas throughout the tropics. In Fiji, these forests can be found in the rain-shadow region of the group. This type of vegetation is among the most endangered ecosystems on the planet. Once, most islands in the Mamanuca island group were covered in tropical dry forest; today, only 1% of this ecosystem remains. Most of it in the form of small isolated pockets. Apart from the loss of vegetation, the Dry Forests are also home to a variety of endangered species, such as the Fijian Crested Iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis) and the Fijian Free-tailed Bat (Tadarida bregullae). The Tropical Dry Forest also provide niches for endemic and native species such as the Fiji Goshawk (Accipiter rufitorques), Pacific Boas (Candoia bibroni), and Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus).
Working with Fiji’s Department of Forestry and the South Pacific Regional Herbarium; a planting program has been set up to restore and stitch together dry forest patches with native tree species on Likuliku Lagoon and Malolo Island Resort leases. Another program that supplements the restoration program is the removal of any introduced species that prohibit or limit the development and growth of the Dry forest ecosystem.
As a result of the dry forest restoration plan, a nursery was established at Likuliku Lagoon Resort in 2012 which has since produced more than 6500 native tree species that have been planted within the resort leases.
Fiji Crested Iguana Conservation Program:
This critically endangered species was considered extinct on Malolo Island until 2010 when an injured adult was discovered at Likuliku Lagoon Resort. The specie was later sent to Kula Park on Fiji’s mainland for care but unfortunately died – its tissue remains are kept at the University of the South Pacific. Visiting researchers, Dr. Robert Fisher of the US Geological Survey and Dr. Peter Harlow of Taronga Zoo were informed of the find whereby they extracted a tissue sample from the specimen which was sent to San Diego Zoo in the USA for DNA analysis. The results came back indicating that it was a species thought to be extinct. Working with researchers from the US Geological Survey, Taronga Zoo and San Diego Zoo, immediate steps were taken by Ahura Resorts to identify major threats that could be inhibiting the growth of the Malolo iguanas.
First and foremost, an invasive species management program was implemented in controlling the local feral cat and rat populations; and secondly, a restoration plan was implemented to restore the natural habitat of the Malolo iguanas. This habitat is commonly termed as a dry forest, categorized as one of the most critically endangered vegetation type in the world.
In June 2015, 3 years after these programs were implemented, a survey in one of the last remaining dry forest patches was conducted and revealed six new iguanas, indicating that the program had worked. Two of the six iguanas were captured, DNA samples taken, tagged and released back into the wild. As a result of these finds, a decision was made to bring in a sponsored post-graduate Herpetology student from the University of Georgia in the USA for a period of 3 months in 2016. His task was to consolidate all the work done on iguanas, and to expand the surveys with the aim of finding more iguanas on other dry forest patches. This resulted in the discovery of 3 juveniles, who were subsequently tagged and released back into the wild.
By July 2019, a total of 44 individual wild iguanas had been documented within Ahura leases. The conservation programs put in place in 2011, had clearly made a positive impact as the growing population had become visible. All newly found iguanas have been electronically tagged for tracking and DNA sampled thus enabling researchers to track them over time. Ongoing surveys have shown continued success of the program and a further increase in this specie population. There are 4 pairs of iguanas held in captivity at Likuliku Lagoon Resort for observation and breeding purposes in an Assurance Colony. They have all been DNA tested and are of the original Malolo species.
In August 2017, the first successful breeding in captivity occurred followed by further hatchings in August 2018. Since then, there have been several more hatchlings bred in our Assurance Colony over the last few years with many more also breeding now in the wild.
Marine Conservation and Restoration Program
In July 2005 the late Paramount Chief of the Malolo Islands “Turaga Na Tui Lawa” traditionally declared the waters and reefs in front of Likuliku Lagoon and sister resort, Malolo Island Resort, a Marine Protected Area or “Na Tabu”. This is an environmental initiative in partnership with the landowners to improve fish stocks and species and allow natural recovery and restoration of house reefs and marine life as part of responsible sustainable tourism. The “Na Tabu” means that any form of fishing or shell and coral collecting is strictly forbidden and this applies to locals and visitors alike.
In concert with this, there is an ongoing program of reef restoration and conservation through elemination of invasive species, ie Crown of Thorns Starfish, and relocation of Giant Clams which encourage marine life. We have implemented a Coral Planting program to assist with reef regeneration, especially important after major weather events like cyclones which can cause damage to reefs. This has proved to be very successful over the years with new reef sections emerging, again encouraging further marine life in the Lagoon.
In 2018 we secured the lease of Mociu Private Island (Honeymoon Island). Mociu (pronounced “Moor-thiew”), is a tiny, uninhabited island only 15 minutes boat ride from both Likuliku Lagoon and Malolo resorts. Mociu has been designated as a protected nature reserve. The waters and reef around it have also been traditionally declared a marine reserve or “Na Tabu” by the local community – with no form of fishing or shell fish collecting is allowed. The island is for the enjoyment of Ahura Resort guests only and will also be used to further develop and expand our environmental conservation initiatives as mentioned above including: dry forest restoration, invasive species management, coral/clam restoration and other marine and terrestrial conservation projects. Access to the land is by invitation only.