Protect Samoa's natural resources: conservationist

The destruction of ecosystems through human practices such as deforestation is a factor behind the creation of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

That is the view of the Samoa Conservation Society Executive Member, Tupaemanaia Dr. Steve Brown, as he talked about the significance of marking World Nature Conservation Day on July 28 and the need for Samoa and the global community to work together to address climate change.

He said increasing deforestation in Samoa and around the world is leading to the loss of the world’s “lungs”, which are ecosystems that provide a home for millions of flora and fauna around the world and play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change.

“That means we are destroying ecosystems as we get rid of these global forests, the animals come running out into the urban areas, and we as farmers move into the deforested area, we mix and mingle with the animals, we swap our pathogens and that is how we get zoonotic,” he further explained. 

He said that zoonotic is an organism that jumps from an animal like a bat into a man resulting in humans suffering from various diseases.

Tupaemania warned that humans can expect more pandemics in the future if we continue to chop down all of the forests in the world.

“Samoa has one of the worst deforestation rates in the South Pacific,” he added.

The shooting and consumption of pigeons in Samoa is also a cause for concern, according to Tupaemania, as he claimed the practice has led to the loss of the country’s rare bird Manumea. 

“The Government has got to stop bringing in bullets, we need a wide education programme. Those practices, sadly, have all got to stop,” he said.

Tupaemanaia, who is originally from Australia, said Australia has doubled the extinction rate of its mammals in 30 years.

“There were 16 native mammals extinct in Australia in 1990 and now it's 32 I think. This is all happening in front of us.”

When asked what advice he would give youth in terms of conservation, Tupaemanaia used 17-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg as an example.

“One of the best young conservationists would have to be Greta Thunberg, she has challenged world leaders, she has spoken at world summits,” he said. “She lives and dreams of a planet that protects nature. I think she has inspired the youth of Samoa, the youth of the world.”

Tupaemania urged youth to join Ms Thunberg and support everything that she is advocating for.

“And try as a youth to advocate and get the Government to fully commit to protecting our biodiversity and this planet nationally, regionally across the Pacific and globally around the world.”

Discussing how the July 28 World Nature Conservation Day is marked in Samoa, Tupaemania said it is an opportunity to increase awareness about best practices to protect the country’s natural resources.

“They are under extreme threat from not only climate change but even corona as a pandemic,” he said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said people have lost their jobs and some have resorted to poaching animals.

Tupaemanaia then urged Samoa to declare a national climate emergency, and admit that more needs to be done to improve and work on the country and the region’s climate vulnerability. 

“Secondly we admit that we have not done enough and thirdly, we admit that there are lots of things that we need to do to not only improve Samoa’s climate vulnerability,” he emphasised. “But the whole Pacific and the whole world with a regional climate emergency and a global climate emergency.

“We have had this discussion for 30 years and the situation has got worse."

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