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The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFB) needs financial assistance from the Government to eradicate the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB), a new threat to coconut palms in Vanuatu.
The new beetle species can wipe out all the coconut plantations on an island. Therefore, authorities need all the help they can get to be one-step ahead of the fast-spreading beetle or it will destroy all the ‘tree of life’ on Efate and cause significant damage to local economy.
Director General (DG) of the MALFFB, Moses Amos, said they will be requesting around Vt40 million (US$344,672) from the Council of Ministers (COM) to stop the new threat from destroying Vanuatu’s coconut industry.
The new threat was discovered recently at Mangaliliu on north Efate. It has since spread to Gideon’s Landing. Since CRBs can fly up to a distance of 4 kilometres, it is likely they could spread soon to nearby offshore islands or the Shepherds Islands.
Concerns have been raised that the MALFFB should take serious measures now to stop the spread of the beetle or the situation will become worst like in Solomon Islands. The beetle has destroyed coconut plantations in there.
The CRB is also present in other Pacific countries as Palau, Samoa, Hawaii and Papua New Guinea (PNG). Vanuatu is experiencing its first outbreak.
DG Amos said it’s possible that collecting or selling coconut from the host areas can be prohibited if the situation becomes worst, which means that people will suffer economically.
He said they are ruling out chemical control because it is harmful to the environment.
The main concern is that eradication efforts needs to be well coordinated and implemented faster than the spread of the infestation or it will be too late.
The rural population depend on coconut for their livelihood and it is one of the country’s main export products.
Around 5,000 households in SHEFA Province could be affected if communities and villages around Efate do not take proactive measures to help the Department of Bio-security exterminate the spread of the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB).
The insidious CRB, known to prey on coconuts is now a rising threat to Biosecurity after reports of its latest sighting on Gideon’s Landing.
Principal Biosecurity Officer, Touasi Tiwok, reported that the current incursion of the CRB, which was first sighted on May 20 is now spotted from Mangaliliu to Gideon’s Landing.
“The Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Beetle can fly an average distance of 4 kilometres,” Officer Tiwok said.
“If we do not move quickly to eradicate this threat, it will be too late.”
Concerns were focused on the risk of the beetle’s quick dispersal and the failure to eradicate this pest may result in the same manner as the fire ants issue.
A CRB Response Taskforce Team has been established as an emergency response to carry out the eradication process of the CRB on Efate and prevent its spread to adjacent communities and islands, as well as other provinces.
Biosecurity Vanuatu has also engaged the technical expertise of the Pacific Community (SPC) in providing both the technical expertise as well as the in-country support, to assist the country with surveillance and emergency response.
Officer Tiwok said they are working to find out how these beetles entered the country.
Meanwhile, Officer Tiwok is appealing to local market vendors, especially women coming from these affected areas, also other villages and offshore islands of Efate to ensure they de-husk their coconuts before they bring them to the market.
“The larvae grow inside dead, decaying trunks and other organic matter but mostly on dry coconuts,” she said.
“It is very important to inspect your coconuts and de-husk them before travelling to town to sell them.”
A common sign which shows coconut trees may be affected by these beetles are the ‘V-shaped’ mark left on coconut fronds. This indicates the presence of the CRB, feeding on coconuts, especially on young, developing fronds.
“The difference between the CRB and other rhinoceros beetle is the orange hairs on its body, mainly its legs, this can be further identified during its larvae stage.”
The Surveillance and Emergency Response so far included:
• 40 bucket traps deployed with pheromone
• 20 artificial breeding sites deployed to capture adult beetles
• Destruction of breeding sites both with the use of chainsaws and burning
• Community awareness activities to improve community cooperation in detecting and reporting signs of the CRB damage in their areas
Officer Tiwok conveyed that during the first sighting of the CRB, Biosecurity officers collected specimens from the affected area and sent images to the SPC Plant Health Team, who confirmed the morphology of beetles as Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle and recommended the specimens be sent to New Zealand where it was later confirmed on 24th May by the New Zealand Landcare Research LAB to be of the same species.
Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFB), Moses Amos, is appealing to the SHEFA Provincial authority, the Area Councils, community leaders, chiefs and the people of Efate and offshore islands to work together with the Department of Biosecurity to help minimize the spread of this insect before they destroy coconut plantations and spread to other areas.
SOURCE: VANUATU DAILY POST/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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