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Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA)

Phoenix Island Protected Area (PIPA) is the biggest preserved marine area in the world. It comprises of islands with beautiful naturally breathtaking scenery of coral islands, blue lagoons and sparkling white sand beaches stretching to the horizon. This island provides a perfect place to enjoy the real beauty of Kiribati with fresh natural air away from the busy traffic and congested areas in the cities, without boat traffic and shopping malls. According to the recent surveys by the National Geography Magazine, Phoenix Island is the last harbor of primal ocean which has maintained the original ecosystem without interference.

The island is home to different species of animals and it is estimated to be a nesting and feeding ground for over 19 species of sea birds, Boobies, Noddies, Shearwaters, Frigates, Petrels and Terns which are found in huge numbers (Kiribati National Tourism Organization, 2009). Migratory birds such as Golden Plovers, Bristle-thighed Curlews, turnstones and Wandering Tattlers can also be seen in the island between September and May. The island has 2 submerged reefs, 8 tolls and others below the water surface. They form underwater mountains which contribute greatly to the different marine habitats that are available.

It has unique submerged currents which help in dispersing marine animals and larvae to the rest of the world. The area has had minimal interference from humans and therefore is still in its original state. It is estimated to have an average of 120 coral reefs species and 500 fish species. It is a place which can be considered to be an oceanic wilderness (Phoenix Islands Protected Area, 2007). Its reefs until 2003 were considered to be free of bleaching, disease and predation factors which threaten pacific reefs although there is a significant recovery to its original conditions.

The abundance of fish population is a clear indication of a healthy and intact ecosystem with macro predator populations in majority of the islands. Dolphins and sea turtles can be seen in many of the islands with turtle nesting being found in most of the beaches. There is massive aggregation from seabirds on the islands: a clear indication of the suitable conditions they provide for feeding and nesting birds. These islands also play an important role in migration of sea birds and marine life across the pacific because it is a major migratory route for them (Kiribati National Tourism Organization, 2009).

The human intrusions threatening PIPA: Upon human arrival on the islands, there was introduction of invasive animals and plants. They included: rabbits, Asian and Pacific rats, cats, dogs, ants, lantana and pigs. These plants and animals had a significant impact on the islands’ ecosystem. Native sea plants and birds were faced with the danger of being eliminated through egg destruction, plants taking over other plant life and modification of the natural ecosystem of the island.

Plants and animals that originally did not exist on the islands were introduced and spread to other areas in the island impacting the indigenous species and ecosystems. Opposition towards introduction of such invasive species of both plants and animals has continued to mount because: when they disrupt the island’s ecosystem, they affect the interconnection that originally existed which enabled safe existence and nesting of the different species of both indigenous plants and animals (Phoenix Islands Protected Area, 2007).

For example: pacific rats have endangered small sensitive sea birds and the invertebrates together with lizard populations in the island. Asian rats that were recently introduced on McKean Island have had a devastating effect to the indigenous plant life although recent efforts from concerned groups such as Ray Pierce helped eradiate the island. Rabbits were competing with birds for shade, destroying their eggs and young ones with cats eliminating the seabirds from the bigger islands. This greatly reduced the population of birds in the island.

Dogs and pigs which were also introduced in the islands were destroying seabird colonies. Weeds such as Lantana and coconut plantation have slowly colonized Enderbury. Preservation efforts: Due to the increased marine environment degradation, protection efforts are needed to ensure that marine life does not become extinct. These efforts should be aimed at promoting recovery of the ecosystem to its original state and put in place ecological values which can promote social economic interests both locally and globally.

Past efforts such as those from NZAID which were aimed at rat and rabbits eradication should be promoted. These eradication programs should also be checked if they are effective in their intended purpose by various scientific teams like Ray Pierce. For example, when the rat rabbit eradication efforts were checked by Ray Pierce group, it indicated that there was a tremendous improvement in the seabirds’ ecosystem such that for the first time they could be able to nest successfully without much distraction.

Vegetation recovery efforts have also provided birds like blue noddies suitable nest sites promoting breeding and peaceful existence (Tebwe Ietaake, 2008). Because of the dangers facing PIPA, I could like to appeal to various environmental friendly organizations and donor groups, to join and provide funds to our current rehabilitation and conservation groups on the islands. This will boost our conservation efforts and help restore PIPA to its original state. References: Kiribati National Tourism Organization (2009).

Highlights of the Phoenix Island protected area. Retrieved August 10, 2010, from http://www. kiribatitourism. gov. ki/index. php/thingstodo/pipa Phoenix Islands Protected Area. (2007). Phoenix Islands Protected Area. Retrieved August 10, 2010, from http://phoenixislands. org/index. php Tebwe Ietaake (2008). World’s largest Marine Protected Area Created in Pacific Ocean. Retrieved August 10, 2010, from http://www. conservation. org/newsroom/pressreleases/Pages/PIPA-largest-protected-area-in-pacific. aspx

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