Polynesia, a Culture of Nature





Polynesia, a culture of nature


Stephanie V Sears


What a damning reflection on mankind if part of the world viewed almost unanimously as the closest place to heaven on earth – Polynesia – were to be disfigured by human carelessness. While some Polynesian islands are attempting to back track into more sustainable ways, efforts from island group to island group are unequal in their scope and success.

How well, in fact, are those admirable landscapes, lauded successively by discoverers, artists, writers, the film industry, protected for future generations?

The premise here is that enduring and economically viable nature preservation in the island cultures of Polynesia can only achieve a satisfactory level by being a way of life.

To function harmoniously all parts of an island must be in good order to properly interact. While the elements of interaction: environment, population, culture, economy, are the same as on the continents, imbalances appear more rapidly in the more circumscribed insular context.

Polynesia, usually defined as a triangle whose tips are Hawai’i to the north, New Zealand to the south west, Easter Island to the south east, became widely known to eighteenth century Europe long after it had been settled by the first Polynesians; as a region of incomparable natural beauty in which the islanders themselves seemed to add the romantic and sensual innocence of their remarkable symbiosis with their environment.

Yet long before European contact, Polynesians had already significantly altered their natural surroundings through agriculture, hunting and tribal competitions. Well-known examples of this are the extinction of the flightless Moa bird by New Zealand Maori and Hawaiians alike, the deforestation of Easter Island, the loss of primary coastal forest through swidden agriculture in many parts of Polynesia; despite social and ‘environmental’ rules that controlled the use of resources and other aspects inherent to an insular milieu.

Christian faith later banned some of these rules as immoral and general acculturation weakened or obliterated others.

Population growth, urban sprawl, pollution, garbage dumping, loss of biodiversity are cause and effect of a sequence of destabilizing factors in Polynesia today.

The twenty first century has witnessed therefore a more pronounced focus on environmental issues in Polynesia, whether in government planning, on local television, in school programs, in the emergence of regional NGOs. In light of this emphasis on nature conservation to save both irreplaceable landscapes and island cultures, one is tempted to advocate official preservation of all Polynesia. This might be achieved by way of a felicitous association between modern technology and traditional ‘know-how’ allowing for sustainable economies. Such a track would undoubtedly contribute to the reinvigoration of regional cultures. It might also, refreshingly, oppose thriving local societies to an often dull and ultimately undermining globalization.


Lord Howe island   

The Australian island of Lord Howe, 700 kilometers northeast of Sydney could have been part of the Polynesian triangle had Polynesian settlers of nearby Norfolk island come upon it. Its high misty peaks, lagoon, beaches and palm woods certainly fulfill the universal image we harbor of an ideal Polynesian island. 11 kilometers long, 2.8 kilometers wide, this small island has been a World Heritage since 1982. Much care is taken to limit and show as little as possible of human presence and even the small golf course blends almost seamlessly into the striking landscape. In addition to the 370 residents only 400 tourists are allowed on the island at any time. This strict quota offers the double advantage of keeping tourist infrastructures discreet and giving tourists in return the feeling of a rare and privileged experience.

            Lord Howe island is managed by a Board whose members are elected every three years and whose meetings are for the most part public. In recent times the Board has put a greater emphasis on environmental considerations in response to the island’s population growth and an increase in ecotourism. Tourism and the export of the Kentia palm and other endemic plants provide the main sources of income of an island settled only in 1834 by eight individuals. Founding names like Ashdown, Bishop, Chapman, resound today in Lord Howe’s history like a biblical genesis. Sites bearing the designations of Smoking Tree, Transit Hill, Nichol’s Clear Place, Thompson’s Lookout, underline the close relationship existing between island and inhabitants, much as if the whole island were a private garden to the latter. Such closeness has resulted over the years in an easy consensus over island matters. In view of the trusting behavior of the Wood Hens and Mutton birds one stumbles upon along the roads, of the White Terns confidently perched on branches within easy reach of one’s hand, of the King Fish crowding the shore of Ned’s Beach in hope of man-offered tidbits, one’s overwhelming impression is of a harmonious co-existence between fauna and man.

            This garden island has, since 1999, been prolonged and strengthened by a 48 000 hectare marine park and a ban on industrial fishing. To counter previous introductions of alien plants, the Board began a weeding project in 1993 to rid the island of all non-endemic species; (invasive fauna more easily constrained than flora, having been resolved by specialists). International volunteers encouraged to participate in this painstaking task, have made Lord Howe a worldwide reference for eco-tourists.

The constant vigilance and preservation action on the part of the whole local community as a way of life has resulted in a visual impression that the island’s administrative, residential and park areas flow into each other almost seamlessly. In this near idyllic picture there is, however, a discrepancy. Tourists happily walking and bicycling across the island are all too regularly passed by resident cars or motorcycles. Asked why electric vehicles are not used for such a small and environmentally engaged island, Ian Hutton, resident historian, naturalist, photographer, explains that the Australian government subsidies the island in fuel, thereby encouraging the use of standard motor vehicles. As a result, 337 approved vehicles (in 2013) pollute Lord Howe.

According to Mr. Hutton a deeper shadow may loom over Lord Howe if local control of island affairs is replaced by a mainland and therefore more impersonal management. The island may then lose the critical ingredient of emotional involvement and cohesion between residents and local administration.


Kauai island

Kauai is reputed as the ‘garden island’ of Hawaii. With 33 miles at its longest, 25 miles at its widest, a resident population of 67,091 (2010 census) and over 16000 visitors per day, it is both much larger and more populated than Lord Howe. Polynesian natives represent only 24% of the ethnically heterogeneous population. The American way of life is largely evident with wide main roads, the ubiquitous use of cars, the presence of large hotel complexes and ten golf courses. Major traffic jams seem to occur daily, particularly through the town of Kapa’a. Hotels are numerous: seventeen at Kapa’a, eighteen at Kolau, fourteen in Princeville – some sixty hotels in total. Juxtaposed to this prominent tourist infrastructure are rural areas with one-way bridges lovingly preserved by locals in recollection of a slower rhythm of life. Several large privately owned farms offer large green swaths of manicured, fenced pasture land. An important network for landscape, watershed and biodiversity conservation, through combined public and private efforts, protects an estimated 50 % of Kauai, leaving 45% to cultivation and 5% to urban zones. The Waimiha Preserve created inside the Kempi Watershed Alliance (KWA) reunites a combination of state nature preserves and lands owned or managed by private enterprises such as the Kamehameha Schools Trust. As an educational institution the latter thereby reaffirms the strong ties between Hawaiian education, culture and nature.

            Preservation of endemic fauna and flora is concentrated in the central montane areas of the island, (where feral pigs, goats, deer continue to roam and affect flora negatively), nearing the shore only in the north of the island while the rest of the coast is well altered by alien species.

Other factors interfere with the inherent image of a Polynesian garden island and cause strife over land use. Genetically modified agriculture, taking advantage of Kauai’s balmy weather, makes use of pesticides which, though restricted, are not banned. The proximity of this type of agriculture to nature preserves appears blatantly contradictory to island residents.

            A major land dispute begun in 1959, year of the creation of the new state of Hawaii, opposing the state to 2,721 ethnic Polynesians to whom compensation was promised in the form of homestead lots, has become a drawn out legal battle. Some plaintiffs have died before receiving their lot while the remaining plaintiffs fear they will suffer the same outcome. Bitterness has festered into a cultural/racial mistrust in which the state is seen as dishonest in an attempt to deprive individuals of their land. In contradiction, therefore, with the island’s image of traditional Polynesia promoted by the Hawaiian tourism industry, Polynesian culture is not seen as a State priority.

            To contradict this impression, Katie Cassel of the Koke’e Resource Conservation program on Kauai, refers to an eight year plan of the DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) to preserve the primary aspect of the island’s protected landscapes: by reducing infrastructures to a minimum, partly to benefit native hunting, gathering, ritual privileges in these areas.

On a smaller scale, the garden of Lima Hule (1002 acres), on Kauai’s northern coast is a similar venture initiated by the Wickman family in 1976 to represent the traditional valley arrangement or Ahupua’a. This unit of Hawaiian land division from mountaintop to coast provided all the island’s plant resources to one social group.

The picturesque botanical reconstitution, including a few archeological sites, proposes not only to display the full spectrum of the island’s endemic plants but also to make these plants available, within a sustainable framework, for traditional use by kahuna (Hawaiian medicine specialists). But according to a few native Polynesians, the garden is rarely used this way, kahuna preferring to gather plants from their own garden or other areas.

            Vegetation has been so thoroughly altered in the Hawaiian group by the introduction of alien plants that tourists continue to believe that pineapple, papaya, mango, indeed as iconic in Hawaiian tourism as surfing, (which is, in fact, of Polynesian origin), are native to the archipelago. Clearly, a gap exists between tourism’s marketing formula and traditional Kauai. Through the gradual change of this adulterated perception Polynesian culture will reassert its relation to nature and its self-respect as the island’s cultural foundation. The change may in turn result in a less ‘industrial’ tourism.


New Zealand

New Zealand, the largest of the Polynesian archipelagos, has, by contrast, with other islands, both a continental and insular outlook and a more diversified economy. Nature has benefited from a relatively small population, allowing for 5 million hectares of parkland (twenty-six parks and reserves, three World Heritage Sites equivalent to one third of NZ’s territory). Untouched, spectacular panoramas particularly in the south island have been the backdrop for such films as The Lord of the Rings and have subsequently become so identified with these epics that visitors come to see both nature and the legendary aura imparted by the films. Fjordland, largest of the national parks, conveys perhaps best this ‘other’ world devoid of human pollution and clutter that people come to admire.

            New Zealand became a ‘green’ destination in the 1980s, departing from previously widespread industrialization and agriculture with high levels of gas emissions. The country continues to expand its park area, the most recent addition in 2002 being Rakiura National Park.

Maori complaints addressed to the Waitangi Tribunal, about environmental degradation, led to the creation of the Ministry of the Environment in 1983, of a parliamentary commissioner for the protection of the environment and to an overall clearer sense of the cultural significance of nature preservation. More specifically, the Waitangi Tribunal helped Maori tribes remind the New Zealand government of the close ties between New Zealand landscapes and Maori culture, leading the Maori to demand greater participation in the management of parklands. The tribunal obtained the official recognition of the sacredness of particular sites like the Maunga Pohatu mountain for the Tuhoe tribe in Te Urewera Park where some areas remain private to the tribe. In Aoraki National Park (Mount Cook) Mount Aoraki itself is considered to be an ancestor of the Ngai Tahu tribe. Cultural value has therefore become in New Zealand an integral part of nature conservation.

Preservation has also taken into account the interaction between the number of visitors, infrastructures and biodiversity protection, limiting the first when necessary and the second to a minimum as a general rule.

An array of walking tracks, the said ‘great walks’ are a trade mark of New Zealand’s green tourism and, supposedly, contribute to a better understanding of the native cultural context, though sometimes Maori perceive these as promoting tourism rather than Maori culture. Indeed, government efforts to strike a balance between cultural obligations, preservation, green tourism and the exploitation of natural resources, remain imperfect in the eyes of the Maori community, and land conflicts with the State continue. A satisfactory balance between all these elements has become a main objective of New Zealand’s administration, the ultimate goal being the restoration of New Zealand’s nature to ‘the way it used to be’ in a more pristine past.


          Environmental policies on other Polynesian islands exhibit a transforming jurisdiction between the ‘way it was’ and the ‘way it should be’.




On the Cook island of Rarotonga (67,19 km2), land cannot be sold. Lineage, land occupation and leasing rights are the channels by which one can own a parcel, and long negotiations are often necessary. It is interesting, therefore, to observe how this most populous island of the archipelago, (13, 095 inhabitants 2011 census), self-governing since 1965, has accepted, developed and managed protected areas on its territory. With some 55 000 visitors per year tourism is the island’s main source of income (67,5% of the Cooks’ GDP).

            The customary rule called raui, reinstated in 1998, has regained popularity as a means to control the use of natural resources, primarily to protect marine resources for three to five years at a time. Over-exploited or poisoned fish populations convinced Rarotongans, under the aegis of their traditional leaders, to re-activate the raui. It was also a way of reaffirming native control over land. Maria Henderson of the Cook Islands Research Association notes that raui ‘ is a common practice…’, creating today a clever, mutually reinforcing consensus between tourism and islander concern. It makes visits more interesting to tourists who become participants in the welfare of local culture and develops a greater sense of community by strengthening traditional leadership. Along the coastal road, part of the Crown Land since 1915, commerce and hotels are glimpsed discreetly ensconced in their beachside gardens while inner roads reveal a rural Rarotonga and further inland, the wild highlands.

Officially protected areas on the island include the largest marine park (1.1 million km2) in the world.

            With fourteen other Pacific island countries the Cook islands participate in an International Waters Project to create and strengthen environmental ties between nations. Parallel networks as, for example, to promote the restoration of archeological sites of global Polynesian interest, such as the Marae Taputapuatea on Rarotonga and its Avana Nui Passage, reinforce the connection between nature and culture on one island and contribute to the sense of a shared Polynesian culture.

            Tourism revenues are perceived by some Rarotongans as insufficiently reinvested locally and disproportionately favoring foreign investment. The 205 acre Highland Paradise appears as a reaction to this perception. Leased for sixty years from other tribe members, the land, once home to 823 tribesmen, is managed by the direct descendant of the sub-chief of the Tino Maua tribe, Teuira Pirangi, an enterprising woman, emotionally attached to the memory of her father Raymond Pirangi and his vision to re-possess his tribal culture. Teuira has created a beautiful 25 to 30 acre garden and plans to extend her father’s work and uncover more archeological sites. Shows of traditional song and dance performed on the grounds by tribal members, bring together locals and tourists to an authentic homeland celebration. Though Teuira’s wish to expand her project is threatened by tribal rights to build houses on the land, her initiative has sparked a change in tourism in which the pecuniary component has become secondary to reestablishing an ancestral tie between tribe and land.


American Samoa


American Samoa, unincorporated United States territory, self-governing since 1967, and Western Samoa, a constitutional government closely engaged with the traditional Matai system or chieftain-ship hierarchy and the Fono or Council, are at the very heart of traditional Polynesia. The small archipelago of American Samoa (199km2), cultural twin to its neighbor, has also an active Matai system. Environmental concerns are very much on the forefront of the territory’s administration as reflected by the recent ‘green’ building of the American Samoa Environmental Agency and the Ocean Center in Pago Pago, by the 3,400 hectare National Park and six marine sanctuaries covering 13,581 square miles. Since the author’s last visit to American Samoa in 1990, the presence of new hotels seems correlated, in a will to develop tourism.  

Since Samoans have sustainable usage rights to areas where rare endemic species and ecological systems are protected, activity in parks and sanctuaries is three-fold: touristic, scientific, local usage. This last aspect is the most significant since it introduces the island population to the need for sustainability towards an enduring enjoyment of nature’s riches.

Environmental endeavors continue, however, to contend with a persistent wariness on the part of islanders toward non-communal claims on land and the possible negative effects on their own rights.


Western Samoa


Western Samoa, composed of the large main islands of Upolu (434 sq miles) and Savaii (656.374 sq miles) was first in the South Pacific to create a national park.

The impact of illegal logging or cultivation is not always understood or willingly accepted by inhabitants habituated to harvesting from an island’s uninhabited areas. The further away a proposed park area is from any human settlement the more readily does Samoan public opinion accept it. The less, also, will it be used illegally.  

This has been the felicitous case with the Savaii highlands proposed by SPREP (South Pacific Regional Environment Programme) as a World Heritage or at least as a protected area. As of 2013, of the four protected areas on Savaii, one coastal, three, astride the higher montane and lowland regions, represent only 17% of the area proposed for a World Heritage status.

Preservation of Samoan landscape alone is no longer considered sufficient by specialists, and the endemic integrity of a zone, also called KBAs or Key Biodiversity Areas, need also be protected. Eight terrestrial KBAs and seven marine KBAs have been identified, corresponding to 33% of all land and 23% of all inshore reef area.

Fisheries reserves managed directly by villages or districts add to the total surface of protected areas, as in American Samoa. Here also, tourism (25% of the GDP) is promoted in tandem as a logical extension of environmental efforts.

After a sharp increase in the 1990s, Samoan population has now slowed to a rate of 0.64% per year. Yet the side effects of modernization and social individualization (a larger part of the population is living in or near Apia, the capital of Western Samoa where matai authority is weaker) have appeared through an increase in construction, waste and pollution, all critically undermining progress towards sustainability.

The response to these issues has been a proliferation of studies about Samoa’s ecology, that some environmental NGO leaders criticize for the severe discrepancies between action plans and achievement. Inconsistency in the overall conservation effort reveals a poor cohesion between central administration, the Samoan public and preservation goals. One pessimistic suggestion is that government environmental administration offers a bureaucratic niche to individuals given to ever more complex ecological presentations and action plans which are not or poorly implemented. A related risk is that Fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way) may become alienated from its own land through environmental rulings ill suited to the social context.




The hereditary monarchy of Tonga is composed of three island groups: Tongatapu, Ha’apai, Vava’u. Tongatapu concentrates over 70% of the whole population as well as the greater part of the group’s environmental concerns. In the center of Nuku’ Alofa, not far from the palace, people sit in the shade of a large tree, apparently oblivious to the thick carpet of garbage around them. Nor is it unusual to see a Tongan casually throw an empty soda can into the sea during an inter-island ferry crossing. These are indications of the population’s misunderstanding of the individual impact on the overall health of its environment. This confusion drifts naturally into actions with larger impact, such as illegal or mismanaged dumping of solid waste, the destruction of coastal forest and mangrove through land reclamation, the loss of habitat and biodiversity through sand and coral mining, resulting in accrued erosion.

Another obstacle to environmental betterment is the lack of financial resources to implement strategies. By contrast with Samoa, Tonga is financially strapped and a relative beginner in the domain of fund-raising. There is, consequently, inadequate monitoring of protected areas and a certain lack of infrastructure such as maps and trekking paths to encourage ecotourism. Tonga generally relies on its existing traditions and numerous islands to fulfill tourist expectations. Paradoxically, the insufficient environmental machinery conveys an uncontrived charm to Tonga though it does not insure a satisfactory level of preservation.

           The higher Tongan island of Eua (87,44km2 for a population of 5,016, census of 2011) is only a few hours away from Tongatapu by ferry and has the largest terrestrial nature park(450 hectares) in Tonga. The fully protected forest alongside an exploited timber forest, introduces the visitor to a pristine Tonga different from the one of dense garden agriculture and village settlements strung along Tongatapu’s beaches. Dense and rare endemic vegetation offering occasional peeks of the distant ocean, reveal a more mysterious and yet safer environment, the forest serving as bastion against erosion and pollution. Ideally, therefore, Eua will exert a beneficial influence on Tongatapu so that the latter will not be ‘sacrificed’ to environmental carelessness and poor management, and so that nature protection will, in that stride, encompass the whole archipelago.


French Polynesia


The splendid landscapes of French Polynesia embody perhaps most quintessentially the literary and cinematographic carbon of a romantic Polynesia. Yet here too there are degrees of accomplishment and Ua huka in the Marquesas islands, Huahine in the Leeward islands, Mangareva in the Gambiers, represent different stages in the preservation of nature and the development of ecotourism.

           Huahine (73km2 for 6000 inhabitants, census of 2007) is primarily an agricultural island with numerous archeological sites. Equipped with two resort hotels and fourteen smaller establishments, it has seen a relatively modest flow of tourists because of its proximity to Moorea and Bora Bora, both quasi-obligatory choices for travelers who wish to experience the archetypal Polynesian paradise. Mass tourism is therefore siphoned off to these two other destinations, leaving Huahine to focus on developing a more ecological and cultural tourism.

The Ngo Paruru Te Tairoto NGO in Haapu village was initiated in 2011 by Gibert Pitori a fisherman after he observed the degradation of coral and the presence of poisoned fish in the lagoon. He proposed a new collective mooring system to replace unsupervised yacht anchoring, and strategically placed recycling bins across the island to stop illegal waste disposal; the NGO’s overall goal being to return the island to its former pristineness. Another goal has been to emphasize cultural identity by clearing archeological sites with the support of archeologists and by building traditional communal structures.

Te Paruru Te Natura No Huahine is another environmental NGO begun eighteen years ago by Peter Owen, an American settled on the island. It has focused on cleaning the polluted lake Maeva and on extending marine reserves permanently or with the rahui rotational system. Owen’s hotel, meant to re-embody an ancient Polynesian settlement, features solar energy, recycled plastics for roofs and decks, ecological soaps, an organic garden planted with endemic medicinal and food plants, and a small exhibit in the lobby; it also highlights archaeological structures on the hotel grounds, thereby transforming the hotel into a cultural and environmental center of sorts.

           Huahine has 150 archeological and cultural sites yet no extensive land set aside for nature preservation. In 2005, the Oavarei motu, the Turi and Matoereere mountain ridges and neighboring valleys were declared of ecological value because of the presence of endemic plants and one species of snail, yet the areas have not until now benefited from any official protection, despite the need for watershed preservation.

Ecological and cultural efforts on Huahine are backed by the island’s Centre des Sejours Scientifiques Pacifique Sud. The center proposes to turn the whole island into a model of ‘green’ living by way of the most advanced alternative energies and towards a full sustainability. Their final goal, as expressed in a 2010 proposal, is to turn the whole island into a nature preserve.


Mangareva in the Gambier group, (18km2 for a population of 1,641), began growing pearls in the 1960s. With about 80% of the local population involved in the industry, pearls have been the island’s economic mainstay since the 1980s when black pearls became widely popular. Mangareva is somewhat overlooked by tourism, as reflected by only two small family-run hotels. As a result, a great tranquility pervades the open lagoon and its circle of islands. This neglect by tourism may be due to cooler temperatures and the paucity of traditional structures and activities which were meticulously destroyed or denied by the missionary Honore Laval, ‘ruler’ of the group from1834 to 1871, the latter systematically replacing Polynesian structures with churches and other European-styled buildings.

Severe deforestation had already occurred in pre-European times, resulting in the isolation of the Mangareva population and leading to an overall social debacle not unlike what occurred on Easter island. The loss of much of Mangareva’s bird life through over-hunting, forest clearing in favor of horticulture and the introduction of rats, contributed to the overall loss of land fertility. Consequently, water shortage has also been a problem. Reforestation began in the 1970s, with fast-growing trees such as the Pinus, Falcata and Acacia. A 1974 botanical study notes that Mangareva flora contains some 200 alien species introduced over the years.

Only 300 to 400 kilometers away from Muroroa’s nuclear testing, Mangareva was equipped with an anti-nuclear zone comprising three shelters in the main village of Rikitea. As elsewhere in French Polynesia, islanders observed that many fish died between 1966 and 1968 when nuclear testing was performed above ground, and common belief has been that Ciguatera fish poisoning originates from this military testing.

Yet nature preservation is still not a priority on Mangareva. No area is officially protected except for bits of land around buildings of importance. Poor environmental habits such as throwing metal or fuel waste into the lagoon, using cement blocks to anchor pearl farms to the lagoon floor, pearl shell cleaning techniques that result in algae infestation, the lack of waste recycling and its accumulation in open pits cohabit oddly with a resurgence of traditional ways that may benefit the environment in the future.

Tourists on Mangareva come principally by yacht and are not considered an economic asset and furthermore, islanders fear that yachtsmen, free to roam about the islands unsupervised, will steal what traditional artifacts remain, as has occurred before.

Mangareva is in a kind of environmental limbo, advantaged by a small population, little infrastructure and by some positive economic adaptations, but disadvantaged by a highly altered flora and culture and a minimal environmental awareness.


The island of Ua huka in the Marquesas islands, (83,4 km2 for a population of 621), has bypassed mainstream tourism like the rest of the archipelago because of its distance from Tahiti and relatively difficult access, the ferocity of its gnats (nonos) and scanty tourist infrastructures except, in recent years, on Nuku hiva and Hiva oa.

Ua huka has a low demographic growth rate which favors the reconstitution of vegetation cover. For many years the island’s coastal plateaus suffered from the nineteenth century introduction of goats and horses and their unchecked reproduction. Free roaming herds of goats and horses became an integral part of Ua huka’s culture but their populations have been curbed in the last few years. Vegetation regrowth has reacted favorably and the previously bare sides of the valley of Vaipaee are now green.

The municipal botanical garden of Papua Keikahu officialized in 1985 for the purpose of reforesting the island’s stark coastal flanks has become a sixty hectare nursery benefiting from the 240 hectare watershed of Vaikivi and nature reserve since 1997, at its back. However, the latter remains mostly unmanaged because of land conflicts between private owners and municipality.

In a bid to encourage planting across the island and promote the garden’s activities, agriculturists are given access to a garden membership card which offers a discount on nursery plants, while generally, any resident may claim free produce when a harvest permits.

The blue Pihiti bird, endemic to Ua huka, has survived in extremis and has contributed to greater environmental awareness by it’s becoming the island’s flagship species and a tourist attraction. For this purpose, new trails have been created to benefit ecotourism though parts of Vaikivi Reserve remain closed to everyone except scientists.

But among the island’s environmental efforts appear inconsistencies, such as, for example, a contradiction between the environmental policy of preserving endemic species and one to introduce non-native species. This contradiction seems partly the result of well-meaning individual initiative. Ecological problems might be avoided in the future with a master plan put in place for the whole archipelago.

With many admirable landscapes and remarkable archeological sites of which Ua huka possesses the most ancient in the group, the Marquesan archipelago is a candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage site. This status would indeed help nature preservation in the Marquesas to become an overall vocation and therefore a means to interweave more completely and definitively nature and a society that has suffered greatly from acculturation yet found in the last thirty years or so the energy and talent to revive its traditions.


Greater focus on the environment throughout Polynesia indicates that islands are increasingly conscious of their assets and of their vulnerable insularity. When such concerns become an expression of cultural pride and a desire to guard or repossess an indigenous way of life, related action is most likely to be effective and to more fully and permanently integrate the social apparatus. The successful tie between nature preservation and cultural identity on one island is likely to create emulation in another, thereby gradually extending a preservation network throughout Polynesia, integrated to and sustained by the socio-cultural context .










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