Invasive species, threat to natural environment
Invasive species, along with Climate Change, are the most serious threat to our natural environment, which is the source of all our livelihoods. If we do not take action to prevent and control invasive species, Palau will be changed forever.
For example, our coconut trees are being devastated by the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (chermel a lius). We must take action to control this destructive beetle and save our precious coconut trees to guarantee food security and sustainable tourism. Invasive rats are a threat to human health, wildlife, and our reputation as a pristine paradise. Fruit flies threaten our food security, and make fruit exports impossible. Kebeas (Merremia peltata) has become a major problem along our roads in Babeldaob.
Similarly, almost all of Angaur’s native forest birds have been destroyed by invasive macaque monkeys. If the monkeys are allowed to spread throughout Palau, most of our native forest birds will become extinct.
Monkeys also make farming nearly impossible, threatening our national food security. We applaud the community mobilization efforts to control kebeas, and we also encourage wise practices in road building and land clearing to prevent the problem from becoming worse. These are just a few examples of the many invasive plants, animals, pathogens, and other organisms that are threatening the Palauan way of life; standard protocols are needed for dealing with invasive species that allows for a structured management and control of these species.
Actions must be taken in three main areas: First, we must Lay Foundations through capacity building, educating, adoption of appropriate laws and regulations, and through adequate and sustainable funding; Second, we must Define the Problem, Prioritize, and Make Appropriate Decisions based on factual, scientific and current information, including the location and potential impacts of invasive species, and; Third, we must Take Appropriate Management Action, including developing and implementing strong biosecurity regulations, controlling and where possible eradicating priority invasive species through community action, and restoring ecosystems damaged by invasive species.
We have already made progress in some of these areas, for example by enacting biosecurity legislation in 2016 and developing strong marine/aquatic biosecurity regulations, by developing and implementing a protocol for inventory of invasive plants in protected areas, by mobilizing communities this year to control kebeas, and by development of scientific information and education on the coconut rhinoceros beetle.
Through our awareness efforts, people are much more aware of the invasive species problem now than they were five years ago. These are just a few examples of ongoing work, but much work remains to be done. What is most important now is to develop and implement strategic, scientifically and culturally relevant methodology to address invasive species in Palau.
We urge Palau’s leadership to take action against the single most serious threat to Palau’s biodiversity and livelihoods, the macaque monkeys. Action is very urgently needed to completely remove all the monkeys from Palau so that the birds and farms will be able to recover, and to prevent the spread of these destructive animals throughout Palau.
Finally, we encourage all residents and visitors to Palau to comply fully with all biosecurity laws and regulations, and to never, never, bring any living thing into Palau without all the appropriate permits and other documents. Working together, we can keep Palau a true Pristine Paradise. (PR)