Lowland tropical rainforest once covered nearly all of Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu. Now, however, only fragments are left. Many Tongans have never seen some kinds of native trees, which were common when their ancestors used them for medicinal purposes, food, or to make dye for tapa cloth.
The Toloa Rainforest Reserve is the largest of these remaining patches. It contains more than 200 plant species and two threatened bird species (the Pacific pigeon and the red shining parrot). Large fruit bats, or flying foxes, are a common sight. Human activities, however, have heavily disturbed the reserve, and invasive plants and animals compete with natives throughout the forest.
Tupou College, a boys’ boarding school established in 1866, is committed to restoring the rainforest reserve to its natural state to the greatest extent possible. The school is the custodian of the reserve; the only entrance is through the campus, and teachers and students patrol the forest. Since 2014, the school has worked to remove invasive plants and mammals, plant native trees, and raise public awareness. They have also built a trail through the reserve to facilitate guided tours.
The school will use a Seacology grant to build an Information and Education Center, which will display photos and information about the rainforest and provide facilities for visiting students. Our nonprofit partner is the Tonga Community Development Trust, which has worked with Seacology on several successful projects.