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Teaching tour guiding for conservation

A training programme for local tour guides is underway, with seventeen people from six villages gathered on Upolu to learn the ins and outs of taking visitors around their homeland.

The Samoa Conservation Society is conducting the campaign as part of its Save the Manumea Campaign. It hopes to get more villagers to take an interest in guiding tourists and increasing their knowledge and incomes to their village. 

The group, which is meeting until Wednesday afternoon, is learning the basics of guiding, the flora, fauna wildlife and history of Samoa, first aid, conservation and eco-tourism, and will eventually design their own village tours to deliver.

One participant came all the way from Tafua, Savaii, and is hoping to follow the legacy of her grandfather, Ulu Taufaasisina Tausaga. 

Tuluiaga Ulu Anoai said her grandfather loved the rainforest, which his family and community worked hard to protect from logging.

In the early 1990s, Ulu was part of a group of chiefs who worked with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and Seacology to establish the Tafua Rainforest Preserve.

Village laws prohibit logging and killing wildlife in the rain forest, and it remains abundant and lush, Ms. Anoai said. 

“He loved the rain forest and he wanted to preserve it; not for him, but for the future generations,” she said of her grandfather.

She currently works at the Samoa Bureau of Statistics and has been out of Tafua for 12 years but wants to go home and build up eco-tourism there.

Ms. Anoai said her grandfather blocked a logging company three separate times from setting up shop in Tafua.

“He loved his people, his family and the rainforest more than money,” she said. 

“They offered a lot, but my grandfather said he loves the rainforest more than the money, and that is why I want to keep doing this and be in my grandfather’s footsteps.”

Also at the workshop was Laulu Fialelei Enoka, a Parks and Reserves Officer from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment who, in the 17 years he has worked there, has learnt every bird call in Samoa.

He said he spent weeks in the forests, learning on the job to undertake surveys or research, which helped him get to know Samoa’s diverse wildlife. 

When he first started, he had absolutely no knowledge about forests, bird life or conservation. But for him, the key was being interested.

“If you are not interested in the forest, or anything you want to do, you can’t be happy to do the work. But I’m so happy to see the birds, the insects and everything in the forest,” he said. 

“The main thing for me was to learn birds first, and then the plants they like. After ten years working in the forest, I know all the birds and their calls.”

He is typically too busy to work as a tour guide but his expertise means his reputation reaches keen bird-watching tourists anyway. Laulu has taken leave to take tour groups to the tops of mountains and the depths of rainforests to catch a glimpse of endemic Samoan birds. 

He has become an avid conservationist, having watched Samoa’s biodiversity dwindle even over the last decade, and believes there should be more environmentally conscious tour-guides in Samoa.

“For now, there are not a lot of people in Samoa who have this expertise, so that’s why we are doing this training to teach people, and get a lot of tourists into our forests,” Laulu said.

“I am very concerned for the environment in Samoa, because some people still use a lot of things to destroy the environment or shoot birds, or cut down trees and destroy habitats.

“We are trying to protect our forests and do more community conservation.”

Samoa Conservation Society Vice President James Atherton, Save the Manumea Campaign Project Manager Jane Va’afusuaga and EcoTour founder Tupaemanaia Steve Brown delivered the workshop.

The 17 participants came from Tafua, Falealupo and Aopo in Savaii, and Fagaloa, Uafato and Falese’ela in Upolu.

 

 

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