Wildlife Conservation Society

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through sound science, global conservation and education. WCS was founded as the New York Zoological Society in 1897, with the purpose of public education and outreach in zoology and the preservation of wildlife.

Where we work

The Vatu-i-Ra Land/Seascape covers over 19,425 km2 of forests, mangroves, seagrass meadows, reefs and deep channels surrounding the Vatu-i-Ra passage that separates the main Fiji islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Vatu-i-Ra provides critical habitat for large populations of turtles, endemic iguanas, migratory and resident cetaceans, and populations of highly threatened fish species such as humphead wrasse and bumphead parrotfish. The region includes six forests identified as priorities for conservation in Fiji and at least four watersheds with highly preserved hydrological connectivity between terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats. Conservation and management across the Vatu-i-Ra Land/Seascape is WCS Fiji’s foremost priority within the next 10 years.

Issues & Challenges

Traditional fishing grounds have long-sustained coastal communities, but human population growth, increased market demand, new fishing methods that encourage over-exploitation and severe depletion of reef fish, invertebrate and sharks populations. One quarter of Fiji’s most intact and unique forests lie within Vatu-i-Ra, yet most of them are being logged without careful planning or consideration for impacts on the full Land/Seascape. Freshwater fish are stressed as they face competition from non-native tilapia in Vatu-i-Ra’s rivers, while their migratory pathways from forest to sea are jeopardized by forest cutting that allows rivers to become choked with silt. Climate change looms large for Vatu-i-Ra: predicted sea level rise, warming seas, and extreme climate events are likely to exceed the coping capacity of natural ecosystems and the local communities they support.

Our Ten Year Goal

By 2019, WCS Fiji will have assisted a minimum of eleven districts to develop management plans for maintaining community stewardship of networks of protected areas spanning marine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats. In addition, WCS Fiji will work with traditional resource owners, partners and national government to maintain or increase populations of ten iconic species. WCS Fiji will help resolve major conservation challenges at local to national levels, including: climate change adaptation, interaction of human livelihoods and conservation, and biodiversity loss accelerated by non‐native species.

WCS’s Achievements

  • In partnership with the Fiji Government and other NGOs, WCS has worked with communities in Kubulau in Bua Province, to establish Fiji’s first ecosystem based management plan to manage a marine protected areas network and adjacent watersheds that covers over 30% of the area of their traditional fishing grounds (qoliqoli). This plan is now being replicated in many other districts across the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape.
  • With our partners, WCS Fiji developed a comprehensive ‘ridge to reef’ management plan for Kubulau—the first of its kind for Fiji—that has been endorsed by the Kubulau Council of Chiefs and is being used as a model for adaptive management throughout Fiji.
  • WCS Fiji leverages additional support for Kubulau through conservation finance, business management, strengthening local governance and enforcement initiatives. Building Fijian conservation leadership is a cornerstone of WCS’s work in Fiji.
  • Fiji national marine gap analysis completed using an innovative approach for counting ecological effectiveness, and a national prioritization of terrestrial areas for biodiversity conservation.
  • With over 24 peer‐reviewed publications since 2010, WCS Fiji’s research is contributing to Fiji’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, an obligation to the Convention on Biological Diversity which lays out a road map for wildlife conservation in Fiji over the next two decades.