CIDP and World Heritage Program in Rennell Island

We decided to visit the Rennel Island because of the variety called “Rennel Island Tall” which is famous. This variety originates from the Tengano lake, site now classified as World HeritageThe expert meet M. George Tauika (, local Chairman of the Lake Tengano World Heritage Program. George was informed about the history and importance of the Rennell Island Tall variety, and suggestion was made to include conservation of this coconut variety in the world heritage program. Presently villagers are starting a project with Birdlife international, an NGO based in Fiji, in order to reduce the population of a rat introduced in 2007 through the logging activities. The rat both eats young coconuts, plants growing in gardens and wild birds eggs. The project will start on July 2018. From 2013, World heritage added the Tengano lake in the list of endangered sites, because of excessive logging, mining and invasive species (rat).

Some of the 111 islands of the lake
They are 111 islands into the Tengano lake. Many of them having coconut palms, from only one in some islands up to about one hundred. In the past, Polynesians visited more frequently and occasionally inhabited some of these small islands. A new hypothesis is that such strong fragmentation of the landscape could have play a role in the creation of the Rennell Island Tall variety. Each island provide at least a partial reproductive isolation, helping to breed, obtain and conserve different kinds of coconut palms. The Rennell Island Tall may have appeared on one of these 111 islands in the Tengano Lake.

Here, it seems interesting to return to one of the conclusions of the Polymotu project conducted in Samoa by SPC, CIRAD and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Tengano lake
“The project has generated a new crucial approach regarding the environmental management of the numerous small islands existing in the Pacific region. Many of these small islands were inhabited a century ago, but then people migrated to the mainland. The management of these islands was then reduced and the vegetation evolved without control. Even if some of these islands look now “wild”, they are not. They result from the progressive degradation of cultivated ecosystems. In many small islands, some of the useful plants brought by islanders became invasive: for instance some of the coconut palms in Nu’usafe’e and Fau (Hibiscus tiliaeus) in Fanuatapu. These islands should not be managed anymore as “wild” locations. Some local plant species should be favored; some other species should be controlled and sometimes removed from these islands.”

Do not repeat the same things in all your islands! Taking into account the fragmentation of landscape and the high number of islands availaible, our recommendation is to apply different management to different islands. Some island could focus on the conservation of rare endemic plants; some other islands could be let fully natural; and may be 10 well-chosen islands should be devoted to conservation of coconut palms varieties or populations. For instance, an island could be progressively replanted with palms of the Rennell variety, but only those of green colour and presenting a prominent nipple at the terminal part of their fruits; some other islands could be planted with palms of brown colour with roundish shape, etc… This is a possible application of the Polymotu concept.

Tengano lake
In Rennell, oral history back to 26 generations – so about 600 to 800 years. The Polynesians came from Wallis and Futuna. A chief named Kaituu killed all the precedent inhabitants called Hiti (of devils) with a big coconut tree – So was coconut here before Polynesians? We rent a room in the village of Niu Pani. According to M. Paungahenua Tahua, in charge of internet management at Niu Pani, this name means “Cut coconut” – named after a land dispute during which people destroyed all the coconut palms planted in this land. In Polynesian tradition, coconut palms mark the ownership of the land...
Practical tip: Travelers and tourists going to Tengano Lake are sometimes subject to a scam attempt to charge 2,000 SBD for a one-way trip to the lake. It is true that the track is very bad, but this price is excessive because the lake is located about 55 km from the airport. It is possible to negotiate at 1000 SBD or less. A very good solution is to ask to everybody on the plane if they want to go to the lake, and share the costs. We travelled with a charming Japanese tourist. The best place to stay for professionals is close to the school in Niu Pani, a very very basic “accommodation”, sleep on a braided mat like a real traditional Polynesian, but electric power for charging drone and good internet connection available all day long!

Stakeholders consultation meeting on East Rennell - 1 to 2 February 2016.

The  bird and the wooden cat - Tengano lake