5 June 2017
“The not so Lone Ranger” - Steve Dutton - Ranger Advisor & Australian volunteer
Steve Dutton returned to Solomon Islands in February 2016 to take up an 18 month volunteering assignment with Solomon Islands Rangers Association (SIRA), hosted by Solomon Islands Community Conservation Partnership (SICCP). Steve is taking his second ‘gap year’ in the Solomons, (he started out his work in conservation with a ‘gap year’ in the Solomon Islands Forests Department just after independence, establishing some of the very early plantation inventory plots).
He has worked extensively as a Park Ranger in various locations across Western Australia and is also active in fostering local conservation efforts in his community. Steve is looking forward to seeing community based management models being applied here and learning valuable lessons he can take and apply to Indigenous land management in his work in Australia.
“I enjoy the fact I get to visit some really interesting places, and work with so many dedicated people who are constantly trying to find better solutions and protect the future of their communities”
SICCP is a Solomon Islands NGO, which supports the conservation efforts of Community Based Organisations (CBO’s) who are managing their natural resources through establishing protected areas, which will eventually be registered and recognised under the Protected Areas Act (2010)
SIRA, established in 2015, will develop a professional network for ‘onground’ Rangers and conservation workers. Steve’s main role as Ranger advisor is to assist the Executive of SIRA to build a robust and sustainable organisation for the betterment of Rangers in Solomon Islands. The challenge for him and his colleagues is to create a Solomon Island understanding and model for the Association, which allows it to interact with other Ranger groups throughout the world.
“My role is based in Munda in the Western Province and primarily supports the Rangers within SICCP. I also do training and assist in monitoring programs with Rangers and communities that add to conservation efforts within the CBO’s.”
He hopes that, through his work, he will be assisting Solomon Island Rangers to contribute positively to conservation efforts, and their communities’ futures, by being an example of, dedication, persistence and excellence.
One of the highlights of his time in Solomons has been working with the Community Turtle Monitors on Rendova Island, where internationally important work is being done to protect the nesting grounds of critically endangered Leatherback Turtles, and improve the nesting successes. The monitors carry out night patrols to record nesting activity on their beaches at Baniata Havi la and Retavo. Monitors relocate the nests to secure hatcheries and the resulting hatchlings are released to the ocean. These young turtles add to the critically low numbers in the pacific population, following the patterns of ancient times, they “disappear” for 10+ years, when the surviving females will return to the same beaches to lay their eggs.
While community incentive payments provided by the program currently assist community development in the villages, Steve has also been working with the community to develop an independent income stream to support the work into the future. A small scale eco-tourism initiative, to allow adventurous tourists to experience this rare experience, will not only support the turtle project, but allow for broader community involvement and opportunities to share other unique cultural exchanges with visitors, into the future.
It is a great opportunity to see the local communities developing their futures. Steve would like to see local communities supported with opportunities to exchange ideas that would facilitate professional and personal growth for local counterparts.
Steve is on assignment as part of the Australian Volunteers for International Development Program funded by the Australian Government.