Atherton returns as president of Conservation Society

James Atherton was re-elected Samoa Conservation Society's President at the non-government organisation’s Annual General Meeting last Wednesday.

Hailing from Poutasi, Asau and Palauli, the environmentalist was the organisation’s President last year and Vice President this year and has clocked close to 30 years in the environmental science and conservation work.

Mr. Atherton told the Samoa Observer in a telephone interview on Saturday he’s familiar with the role but is hoping he would be able to hand it over to someone younger soon, as every society needs new ideas and new energy.

Nevertheless he said he is happy taking up the presidential role while they nurture youth members, and pointed to a new partnership with the National University of Samoa's Lanulauava Student Association, which he described as exciting.

Asked how he will lead and what are the priority areas for the society, he explained that there are a couple of things, one being sustainability in terms of funding and obtaining long-term funding which has been a challenge for them.

The second part according to Mr Atherton is outreach, where he is working with the public, communities and the youth through their Green Livelihoods Project as well as partnerships such as the one with the Lanulauava Student Association.

Mr. Atherton said getting everyone in Samoa to think about the impact that they have on the environment in their lives, and if everybody in 2021 can do just one thing that would improve the environment then the country is moving forward.

He said one of the goals of the society is to save the critically endangered Manumea, and with hope to capture a few in order to establish a bird sanctuary to save the bird from extinction.

"I don’t think we are going to achieve it next year but we definitely want to move towards it, I am hoping in the next two years,” he said. “It’s not an easy thing to achieve but most of our efforts and the public needs to understand that its people who care about our country, our efforts will take time and we need to maintain it over many years.”

Mr. Atherton added that it is more of a five to 10 year plan but he is excited about new research projects that they are going to support next year on the Manumea.

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