Trying to contain the spread and hopefully eradicate the Taro leaf vine and other invasive species is one of the Environment department’s main projects.
Environment department’s Biodiversity and Conservation Officer Huggard Togatule (pictured) and his small team of three are trying to tackle what has become a mammoth task of eradicating invasive plants.
According to Huggard, there are many invasive plants in Niue but top of the list would have to be the Taro leaf vine and the Honolulu rose.
The taro leaf vine has spread all over the island including the village of Hakupu which prompted the Hakupu Men’s council to step up to clear this vine from their village.
Fapoi Akesi of the Men’s Council told BCN news that this vine started from within the village in the backyards but they are very concerned that it is spreading close and threatening Niue’s largest primary rain forest, Huvalu.
Akesi says that it’s gone too far, that it is very difficult to eradicate the taro leaf vine from the island but they are determined to contain its spread and to stop it from reaching the rain forest.
Huggard Togatule says that they are not certain as to the exact time this vine was introduced to Niue, but they know that it was brought into Niue by some unsuspecting ladies as ornamental plants for their gardens.
The environment department is asking the community to work together because invasive species like this taro leaf vine is a major problem and it requires community effort to rid our environment of this invasive plant. The department was able to secure funding from the Global Environment Fund (GEF) under a regional invasive species project, but they need the help from the community to successfully contain and eradicate these invasive plants.
Colin Etuata a retired Quarantine Officer said that during his thirty-seven years in government, they tried all different ways to get rid of this vine. They even tried using very strong weed killer but it ended up killing not just the vine but everything else within twenty metres so they stopped using those chemicals.
Now they are going back to the old system of slash and burn and using the bulldozers to cut into the bush and push the infected areas to contain the spread.
The taro leaf vine attaches itself to other trees and slowly smothers the tree to death. Huggard says that this vine drains the nutrients from the tree and ultimately killing it, slowly.
The Hakupu Men’s council is calling on other villages to join them to rid the island of these invasive species. Huggard Togatule says that the government does not have the manpower to move around the fourteen villages on the island, so they do need the help of the village communities to do this task.
Togatule says that invasive species eradication is everyone’s responsibility.