The cold rains and strung gusts were certainly fitting for PCS’s 5-day staff trip to the northernmost tip of the country. Earlier this month, Lolita Gibbons-Decherong, manager of the Conservation and Protected Areas program, and Heather Ketebengang, manager of the Communication and Outreach program, along with their respective team members embarked on the rough seas to one of Palau’s unique inhabited atolls, Kayangel State.
The first night was spent sharing a warm meal with about thirty community members at Baira Seineng, a meeting house located at the center of the island. Loyola “Loy” Darius, the Palau Program Manager of Island Conservation joined Heather Ketebengang in updating the community about the recent advancements and progression of the Kayangel island restoration project that was first carried out in 2011. At the time of its inception, Kayangel had been ravaged by three different invasive rodent species that caused detrimental effects to the wellbeing of crops and wildlife populations including the Micronesian megapode, or Bekai. PCS is happy to confirm that three out of the four islets surrounding Kayangel are rat-free. Also, after a follow-up operation in 2018, only one of the three invasive rat species remains on the main island of Kayangel. Community members agreed that they could clearly see a decline in the rat population and are seeing less damage on fruiting trees.
The highlight of the trip was the management planning team’s trip to Ngeruangel, the northernmost tip of Palau. Dozens of terns could be seen gliding along and against the strong winds. Some team members talked about the conservation efforts that have been ongoing for more than two decades now and how the environment, along with its community, has benefitted greatly from its protection. Although, it was not hard to ignore the declining populations of birds that use the shores of the surrounding atolls for their nesting places. Despite being a barren atoll with no vegetation, some Palauans claim that their family and clan origins can be traced back to Ngeruangel many generations ago.
PCS would like to thank their partners Island Conservation and BirdLife International. Mesulang to the community of Kayangel, the Kayangel State Legislators, and the Kayangel State Rangers for making our trip to the North a successful one.