If you conjured up a mental picture of “remote tropical island,” the image that came to mind might look a lot like Kosrae, in the central Pacific. Close to the equator and 1,500 miles from any large land mass, Kosrae is covered by tropical forest and ringed by coral reefs.
The community of Malem (population about 1,300), is committed to preserving its mangrove forest. The area contains nine species of mangrove and is home to many kinds of birds and fish, as well as crabs and monitor lizards. Vulnerable or endangered species are found there, including Micronesian fruit doves, blue-faced parrotfinches, and the big fruit bats called Kosrae flying foxes.
The community’s goal is to get legally protected status for the 10.5-acre Kupluc Mangrove Area, making it part of the Kosrae Protected Areas System. The agreement with Seacology provides more evidence of the village’s commitment to conservation. The area is in very good condition now, but it is threatened by overharvesting of mangroves for firewood and construction. Roadbuilding near the mangroves has also been proposed. Other areas on Kosrae have already been damaged by tree-cutting, and a 2013 study concluded that the coast was eroding rapidly.
The village will use a Seacology grant to level and expand its ball field, which is used not only for baseball, softball, and track, but also for virtually all public events. They will also install a restroom, accessible to those with disabilities and a 1,000-gallon rainwater catchment tank, ensuring a supply of fresh water for residents. Community leaders are keen to encourage children to exercise, given that adoption of an unhealthy Western diet has led to epidemic levels of obesity and related diseases. The region has the highest rate of diabetes in the world.