Ulong Island, Palau 

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Ulong Island, Palau 

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Preserving an ecologically and culturally rich region

High above the ocean and carved within the limestone cliffs of Ulong Island, Palau, lie ancient caves that contain paintings and pictographs signifying beliefs and activities that far preceded colonialization. These paintings depict a proud cultural history that is also reflected in the remnants of defensive walls and terraced villages that are still found below the rich tropical forest canopy.

Within those same features, countless animals, plants and organisms have also made a home. However, as with all islands, Ulong’s finely tuned ecosystem is vulnerable to non-native, damaging invasive animals and plants that can upset the balance. The chief threats on the island are invasive rodents and feral cats that have disrupted the balance and decimated the huge abundance of seabirds that once flourished there. Rare local forest birds such as the Palauan Megapode and the Palauan Ground Dove have been impacted, as well as snails, crabs and turtles. And when these animals are eaten or die off, the surrounding reefs and marine life are negatively impacted, too.

A Voice from the Community

“We’ve seen firsthand the incredible benefits removing invasive species has had in Palau. Ulong can serve as a model for similar interventions in the region. Both native wildlife and our communities stand to benefit.”

— Tutii Chilton, Micronesian Program Manager, Island Conservation

The Project

In 2021, research began on a long-term project with the Koror State Government’s Department of Conservation and Law Enforcement (DCLE) to not only remove these invasive species, but also promote biosecurity for the Rock Island Southern Lagoon World Heritage Site. Koror is the most populous Palauan state, and their collaborative spirit and guidance is integral to success. Biosecurity is a critical aspect, once invasive species are removed, to ensure an island is protected from reinvasion. Simple protocols and checks are required to prevent reintroductions. In short: protecting a marine-island ecosystem is not just an intervention, but a way of life. The collaboration on Ulong has benefited from Island Conservation’s previous work in the region, including Ngeanges, Kayangel and most recently, Ngerkeklau. In the same spirit, the project will serve as a template for similar interventions on other Palauan islands in the future. The aspiration is that once biosecurity measures have become a routine and integrated as part of Ulong, the natural heritage can be preserved for generations to come.

Project Partners & Funders

Island Conservation, Dawson Family Fund, Koror State Government: Department of Conservation and Law Enforcement, One Reef, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, United States Office of Insular Affairs: Coral Reef and Natural Resources Initiative, and the Wanderlust Fund.

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