The Save the Manumea Campaign is a partnership between the Samoa Conservation Society (SCS) and Samoa's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE).
The Manumea (Tooth-billed Pigeon) Didunculus strigirostris is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List with only an estimated 150 birds left. The Save the Manumea campaign is designed to help prevent the extinction of Samoa's National Bird by:
Supporting key communities to protect the Manumea and support its recovery
Stopping the key threat posed by bycatch from the hunting of Lupe (the Pacific Pigeon)
The campaign was officially launched on 27 July, 2019, by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern and our main campaign champion, the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, the Hon. Fiame Naomi Mata'afa.
1. What's the problem
Since the 1990's the Manumea population has declined from around 7,000 to possibly less than 150 birds left in the wild. It is now only likely to exist in six key areas on the islands of Upolu and Savaii including: Falease'ela; Uafato; Malololelei; Aleipata; Aopo and Salelologa.
The Manumea provides significant value to the natural ecosystem because it uses its large beak to feed on large native seeds that cannot be eaten by other birds. By doing this, it acts as a crucial seed disperser, naturally restoring the native forest. But despite a national ban on the hunting all native flying species, and a number of public awareness campaigns, the Manumea is now under serious threat of extinction.
Key threats to the Manumea include the loss of its lowland forest habitat and predation from rats and wild cats. Another major threat to the Manumea comes from human hunters who use shotguns to hunt the Lupe (Pacific pigeon) which is highly prized as a status food. According to the 2013-2014 Household Income & Expenditure Survey, Samoan householders consume an estimated 26,465 Lupe per year. While not a primary target of the Lupe hunters, the Manumea is frequently caught as bycatch.
2. What are the campaign objectives?
The main objectives of the "Save the Manumea" (Fa'asao le Manumea) campaign are to:
Increase local actions needed to protect the Manumea including local hunting bans, predator control, planting native species and increasing ecotourism opportunities in six target communities.
Reduce national demand for consuming Lupe and to reduce household consumption of pigeons by 25% by June, 2020.
Ban the use of shotgun ammunition which is being used to hunt the Lupe and increase the risk of by-catch for the Manumea.
An initial key objective of the campaign is to convince Samoan's that efforts to stop the hunting and consumption of Lupe will support efforts to protect the Manumea and enable its population to recover. The 12-month campaign, from July 2019 to June 2020, has a target budget of USD$135K which is approximately the same commercial value of all the pigeons that are hunted every year in Samoa.
3. What's different about the new campaign?
Past campaigns focused on increasing awareness and pride in the Manumea, without defining the key actions Samoan's need to take to support the recovery of their national bird.
In July, 2019, the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, and the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, co-launched a new campaign strategy to "Save the Manumea".
This new partnership between the Samoan Government and the Samoa Conservation Society is designed to empower communities to take greater ownership and specific actions to protect the Manumea in those six key areas where it is still believed to exist.
The "Save the Manumea" campaign is using a two-pronged approach that is designed to simultaneously support action at the community and national levels, including efforts to decrease demand for Lupe and to ban the use of shotgun ammunition.
The campaign to "Save the Manumea" is being supported by key partners from New Zealand, who are attempting to contribute expertise and experience from similar programmes in New Zealand. For example, Auckland Zoo is contributing its considerable experience in predator eradication, while funding from the Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade is helping to support community engagement activities that have proven successful in New Zealand.
The campaign strategy has been informed by "Social Change Theory", where efforts to change specific behaviours are focused on changing community norms. The success of efforts to "Save the Manumea" will rely on the full buy-in and ownership of the local communities where the bird is still thought to exist.
In key pilot villages, such as Uafato and Falease'ela, there is already a high level of community support and commitment towards implementing greater local efforts to protect the Manumea, including efforts to enforce local hunting bans, support pest control and restore areas of native forest. Building on the "social capital" that already exists within these communities will support efforts to protect both the Manumea and the wider environment.
Pilot communities, such as Falease'ela and Uafato, are working to enforce local hunting bans, eradicate pests and plant those native trees preferred by the Manumea. This work is also being supported by investments into ecotourism "infrastructure" such as signage, trails and bird hides. It is hoped that becoming a "Manumea Friendly Village" will lead to direct ecotourism benefits and support from key partners such as the Samoa Tourism Authority.
The "Save the Manumea" campaign is also using public artworks to raise awareness of the critical situation faced by the Manumea. Visiting artists from New Zealand, Charles and Janine Williams, initially painted a giant mural of the Manumea on the side of the New Zealand High Commission in Apia, before running a community-based painting workshop with aspiring artists from key communities. Manumea murals are now being painted on schools and other public buildings around Samoa.
4. What do we know about the consumers of Lupe?
A 2006 survey of 221 people found that over half had eaten Lupe and it also suggested that consumption of Lupe was being driven by wealthier Samoans with the wealthiest 10% of Samoans being responsible for consuming nearly 50% of all pigeons. This research appeared to suggest consumption of was being driven by wealthier people living in Apia such as business leaders, pastors, matai and government officials.
Another survey of 246 people carried out in August, 2019, also found that almost 40% had eaten pigeon. However, this survey indicated that regular consumers come from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds. While 86% said they were concerned about the survival of the Manumea, only 50% believed that eating pigeon was a key threat to its survival.
5. What is the objective of the national social media campaign?
The national social media campaign is designed to increase awareness of the main threats to the Manumea and to help build the community support needed to reduce the hunting, gifting and consumption of Lupe.
Stage 1: Start the Conversation - Don’t eat pigeon, eat chocolate!
The first stage of the social media campaign focused on getting people to talk about the Manumea in a fun and engaging way by promoting a fundraising initiative in partnership with the Wellington Chocolate Factory.
As part of this work, the main campaign champion, Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, took part in a humorous 25-second social media designed to help promote a new range of "Save the Manumea" chocolate. The clip opens with the Deputy PM about to eat a bar of Manumea chocolate when someone off camera says: "Fiame, what are you doing?" The Deputy PM then looks straight towards the camera before replying: "Why, I'm Saving the Manumea!" . The closing titles then say: "Don't eat pigeon, Eat delicious Samoan Chocolate!"
Stage 2: Grow Community Support
Stage 2 of the social media campaign will continue to use a mix of humour and serious messages to support the new campaign slogan: "I'm Saving the Manumea" (Ou te Fa’asao i la'u Manumea). This slogan is being used on t-shirts, posters and bumper stickers to help people feel that their actions can directly help to reduce hunting, gifting and consumption of Lupe. A key objective for this stage of the campaign is to increase the following for the campaign Facebook page to 10,000 people by March, 2020.
The well-known Samoan comedian, Tofiga, has been engaged to support the campaign through a humorous "Manumea" campaign song. But he will also be involved in a more serious clip that will involve a series of well-known Samoans explaining the threat to the Manumea and making a public commitment to stop the hunting, gifting and consumption of Lupe. These key celebrities will include people like the Prime Minister of Samoa, Sir Michael Jones, Ma'a Nonu and local celebrities such as Miss Samoa.
Stage 3: Celebrate Community Action
The final stage of the social media campaign will focus on highlighting those key efforts by communities and community champions to protect the Manumea, through local hunting bans, predator control, planting and ecotourism. This will also be combined with more focused social media messaging that is designed to create greater unease around the gifting and consumption of Lupe.
6. How will we measure success?
The campaign will only be considered a success if there are increased sightings of the Manumea and the Government of Samoa supports a sustained recovery plan for the species.
In the short-term key indicators would include a measurable decrease in the hunting and consumption of Lupe. This would have to be combined with a measurable increase in the level of community ownership and support for efforts to protect the Manumea at the local level through hunting bans, predator control, planting and ecotourism activities linked to the Manumea.
The success of the campaign will be measured by:
Review of Lupe consumption data
Signatures to the petition
Key changes to policy/enforcement activities
A post-campaign survey with the public
Review of local community actions (local hunting bans, predator control, planting, ecotourism efforts)
Social media metrics, including the number of Facebook followers
Ongoing investment into the campaign
Sales of campaign materials such as t-shirts, chocolate, posters, bumper stickers
Donations to the campaign
Media coverage of the campaign
Government support for the Manumea Recovery Plan
Increased sightings of the Manumea
To learn more about the challenges facing the Manumea please watch this news item by BBC World:
Tales of Taonga Choreographed by Peter Tamasese, Phylesha Brown-Acton, Cecilia Keil & Ken Moala