BY BEN BILUA
PEOPLE living near Lake Tegano, the biggest freshwater lake in the southern hemisphere, have expressed fear at the recent unexpected deaths of flying foxes in the area.
Reports from the island, which hosts the country’s only bauxite mine and a number of logging operations, say the flying foxes are dying in droves.
Richie Paungahenau, who lives at Lake Tegano, confirmed witnessing the dead mammals.
“We noticed flying foxes dying and rot on the ground,” he told Island Sun by phone.
“We really don’t know the cause of this and we are afraid that there might be something bad going on with our environment,” he added.
Paungahenau said immediate response to investigate the issue is paramount to decrease further threats among the people.
“It’s been days since the sighting of flying fox dying but there is no investigation.
“We don’t know whether the province or the government will send a team to investigate what is going on here.”
Police on Rennell Island also confirmed they received reports from locals about this extraordinary incident.
“Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RISPF) officers on Rennell island in the Rennell and Bellona Province confirm that they have received reports from local people on Rennell island about flying foxes dying on the Island,” the Police Media Unit said.
“Police officers cannot scientifically confirm the cause of death but it is suspected that this could be caused by the lack of food for the flying foxes following the logging operations on the Island,” the Media Unit added.
“It is believed that Bellona island is not affected as there is no logging operation on that Island.
“Police on Rennell request that the necessary Ministry send their officers to Rennell to assess the situation.”
An Officer from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation Department stated that there is no formal complaint or reports raised to the Conservation Department.
“We will collaborate with other ministries in respond to the report only if there is a formal report from those concerned or provincial executive,” the officer said.
When contacted, Premier of Rennell/Bellona Province Willie Tuhagenga said the report is serious and needs immediate intervention.
“From report, I know this is serious so both the province and responsible institution within the national government must team up to investigate the issue,” Tuhagenga said in Honiara, where he is currently staying.
“I will discuss this with my executive and will come up with possible plans to look into this matter,” he said.
Rennell island currently hosts Bintan Mining Ltd, an Asian owned company extracting bauxite from the island.
A number of logging activities operated by Asians are also taking place there.
Rennell is the world’s largest raised coral atoll at a size of 660 km².
The island consists of raised coral limestone, dominated by Lake Tegano, a large brackish lake on the eastern half of the island.