Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mangroves and mud

Professional rain taking notes!

This past week, myself and Kate, who is here to work on a turtle conservation program alongside VEPA, were invited to join the mangrove monitoring workshop with Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. This monitoring program involves placing transects in the mangrove areas and mapping the data on the QGIS software.

Sounds pretty clean until you end up to your knees in the anaerobic mud that the dense mangroves live in. Vava'u is lucky with some very healthy mangrove sites and the impacts that we have found on our first three sites have been minimal.

The project is part of the MESCAL program and Paul from SPREP was here for the training. The impacts that we see here include some bark stripping that has become unsustainable in small areas, this is when the bark is stripped completely around the mangrove tree. Sustainable stripping is where only a portion of the bark has been stripped but the tree can then continue to grow and live. Other impacts seen are caused by external factors such as the design and building of causeways which are restricting water flow and in one case where the flow has been completely cut off has prohibited regeneration due to the lack of tidal movement. Some areas are wonderfully healthy and a great show of mangroves.

Some interesting facts that we have found is increasing the distribution of a Tongan mangrove species that has now been identified here in Vava'u aswell as a potential hybrid species.

MECC and VEPA will continue to monitor the mangrove health, impacts and growth through these transects to see the effects towards climate change.

This is a great initiative funded through IUCN, and Vava'u now has a great team to keep us this good work between the Ministry and the NGO.

Our first mangrove rehabilitation from 2009 going well

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spreading the word on whales

one of the highlights to my whale seasons is the arrival of 2 amazing girls, Matilda and Bonnie from Australia. Matilda has been out with us for 2 seasons swimming with an array of whales and witnessing the mating behaviours. Bonnie aged 4 came with us for one day this year and also saw a mating group of 10 Humpbacks and got to listen to a singer.

Matilda last year after her return from her trip with us, held a presentation at her school and passed around a petition to protect the magnificent Blue Whale and to raise awareness about the natural gas plant that is being built.

Bonnie this year held her own presentation on her experiences with the Humpback whales, and told her class mates about how far they travel, how big the calves are and other important facts.

Here are some pictures of them, I am very proud to be their "Aunty Karen" and be included in songs on the boat, as well as animal games. Well done Matilda and Bonnie, can not wait to see you next year. ( Bonnie - "I kissed Bonnie and she liked it" x)

'Ofa'atu from me and the whales of Tonga.

Matilda, stunning!

Matilda and her classmate.

Bonnie (4).