Postcard from Palau: Seeing Seacology Projects Firsthand
Lisa's post from last week, "Island News from Fiji and Palau," brought me back to my trip to Micronesia in July. Accompanied by our Micronesia Field Representative Simon Ellis, I traveled to visit Seacology projects on Kosrae, Chuuk, Yap and Palau. Here's an excerpt from my report regarding Palau:
"The staff of the Palau Conservation Society kept us quite busy, with visits to the new company capitol on Babeldaob, a very impressive complex along the new Compact Road. The new road and the capitol will very much open Babeldaob to resettlement from Koror as well as new development pressures. We visited the Melekeok Bai (ceremonial house), walked an ancient stone path and attended the opening of a new open-air market near the capitol, where we met with the former president of Palau as well as the chief of Melekeok State (where Lake Ngardok is located).
Lake Ngardok - We then traveled to the Seacology site at Lake Ngardok. The parking lot to the lake is just off the Compact Road. The site for the new solar-powered visitors' center has been leveled. According to PCS director Tiare Holme, construction has been held up by the permitting process, but the permits have finally come through and construction is scheduled to begin within a month. The site boasts a very nice large sign provided by other funders. We walked the trail to the lake. The trailwork is very well done, with recycled plastic decking in wet spots and also used for a dock extending into the lake. The lake itself is really beautiful. It was historically used by area communities during times of drought. Tiare noted that the reeds edging the lake are gradually filling in, and discussions are taking place regarding whether or not to manage the lake in a traditional manner in order to prevent the lake from filling in.
Ngermasech Marine and Mangrove Conservation Area, Ngardmau State - We traveled by boat to visit this area. The area is well-demarcated with buoys and is along a beautiful stretch of mangrove coastline. The 'floating ranger station,' which was originally built with local materials (and is pictured on the wall of the Seacology office) has recently been rebuilt with more robust materials that can better withstand harsh weather conditions. We visited the station, where a local coordinator and three rangers were hanging out listening to a crank-powered radio. There is a small solar panel on the roof, which will be hooked up to a light in the near future. The station offers a good vantage point of the entire reserve as well as the mangrove area, where most poaching takes place (at night)."
The station can only safely hold five people, so Simon and I took turns climbing aboard and checking it out. Such a simple, yet effective, way to monitor a marine reserve! Lake Ngardok was really impressively beautiful, a place where I can imagine walking and contemplating and looking out for wildlife. Saltwater crocodiles have been known to travel up the mangrove channels to the lake. I am sorry to report I did not see one! I really enjoyed seeing community-led conservation in action, not only in Palau, but throughout Micronesia.