'Why talk about ants and rats?' PILN helps Pacific experts connect about invasive species issues

Environmental staff from 16 countries and territories around the Pacific are learning how to get people talking about invasive species at the PILN2016 conference this week in Saleapāga, Samoa.

Animals and plants that come from other places can sometimes take over, hurting local species and environments, which also hurts local people and local economies. Farmers spend backbreaking hours pulling and cutting invasive weeds, while myna, bulbul, and rats steal fruit and cause other problems. Members of the Pacific Invasives Learning Network (PILN) are learning how to help solve issues and explain solutions to communities.

Sessions throughout the week have given the participants tools to improve their field work and to reach communities, because local people have a lot of power to battle invasive species. New tools like social media can connect the right people with the right knowledge.

DSC02742 copy copy copy copy copy copy copy copy copy copy copyParticipants listening into one of the discussions at PILN2016. Photo: SPREP

"Using social media helps me share how blessed we are to get food from the sea and land, and how invasive species hurt our blessings and our culture", said Mr Huggard Tongatule, Project Coordinator in Niue for a Global Environment Facility – Pacific Alliance for Sustainability project on invasive species (GEF-PAS IAS).

Mr Tongatule described how Facebook posts about feral pig control created attention from Coconut Wireless and even the show "Hunting Aotearoa", which came to make two episodes on Niue.

Some of the participants used words from the Bible to connect everyone to idea that we can take care of our environments. After quoting Genesis 1:26, Mr Yalap Yalap, Education Programmes Coordinator for the Palau Conservation Society, said, "That's why we made protected areas. We can be the managers of species and ecosystems."

People were encouraged to use a variety of methods to get their messages across. "Am I being entertained, am I being informed, am I getting something new? It's not very complicated beyond that," said Mr Steve Menzies from Flinch Marketing. "Audiences all over the world have similar needs."

DSC02772Participants of PILN2016 taking part in group activities. Photo: SPREP

The workshop is being hosted by Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and Samoa's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE). "PILN brings experts together to share their knowledge and find out how they can support each other", said Mr David Moverley, Invasive Species Adviser to SPREP.

"Invasive species are everyone's responsibility."

For more information, please contact Dr Tiffany Straza, tiffanys.ext@sprep.org
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