Fiji’s leading resort company, Ahura Resorts has appointed an environmental specialist to the position of group environment manager for its two Fiji resorts, Likuliku Lagoon Resort and Malolo Island Resort, as part of its serious ongoing commitment to sustainable and responsible eco-tourism.
Sia Rasalato’s extensive qualifications and experience in environmental management within Fiji have earned him the position, and he will work to implement a range of activities, programs and initiatives to not only minimise the resorts’ impact on the surrounding nature, but also to improve and enhance the environment for imperilled species and future generations.
“As a resort company operating in a pristine, sensitive environment, with ocean and coral reefs on one side and land flora and fauna on the other, we fully recognise the importance of sustainable tourism and believe that development in such areas carries both a legal and moral responsibility to ensure our environment is not degraded though irresponsible activities and practices,” Ahura Resorts group general manager Steve Ansey says.
“The significant work we have done to date with the iguanas and now the recent appointment of Sia demonstrates this commitment.”
The discovery of a Fiji Crested Iguana in 2010 at Likuliku Lagoon resort kicked off an incredible research journey, sparked by the species’ classification as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Fiji Crested Iguanas are naturally found only in Fiji, and their presence is therefore beneficial to the eco-tourism economy, and each island lucky enough to still have an iguana population will have its own unique genetic “finger print,” and each island often supports an iguana species different from all others in Fiji.
The iguanas on Malolo were thought to be extinct for over 25 years before the exciting rediscovery in 2010, and like most animals on the brink of extinction, their demise has been largely due to the destruction of their natural forest habitat through human activities and the introduction of non-native animals.
Dry forest is one of the most endangered eco-systems on the planet and is crucial to the survival of the Fiji Iguana and other wildlife. Unfortunately, only small pockets of dry forest remain on Malolo and the islands of the Mamanuca group.
Working together with the US Geological Survey, San Diego Zoo and Taronga Zoo over the last six years, Ahura Resorts has carried out major control of feral cat and rat populations, and has begun a dry reforestation project, starting its own dry forest nursery which Sia will now manage in addition to developing and overseeing the regeneration work on the Ahura leases.
Sia will also be responsible for the management of the Iguana catch, tag and release program and the on-site captive breeding program. He will also be working closely with the Mamanuca Environment Society to ensure conservation and preservation of our marine and reef areas.
With a passion for conservation and more than 10 years experience in the conservation field, Sia has been instrumental in the conservation and management planning of significant conservation sites in Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Fiji and supported invasive species work in Tonga, New Caledonia, Palau and Samoa.
“I am excited to start a new challenge with Ahura Resorts, and its a great privilege to be joining a respected company that prides itself on top quality service and promotes ecological approaches to the conservation of natural resources,” Sia says.
“I look forward to working with the team to further develop their commitment to sustainable eco-tourism.”