Our friends from the Solomon Islands Archipelago are back in Sydney to discuss the results of the first expedition.

Chief Esau leads a group of Malaitans in dance and song
Our friends from the Solomon Islands Archipelago are back in Sydney to discuss the results of the first expedition. Image: Alexandra Nuttall
© Australian Museum

This past week we were lucky enough to welcome back our friends from the Solomon Islands and Bougainville. The last six months since our April workshop has been filled to the brim with scientific research and capacity building with the local people in the region.

Tales of elusive creatures and brushes with neighbouring tribes made for interesting discussion around the table at our workshop this week. Tyrone Lavery, our Australian Museum Expedition Fellow described some fantastic results from his research on Malaita in the Solomon Islands and in Bougainville. Although his search for the Monkey-Faced Bat proved unsuccessful this time around, he is confident that it exists somewhere in the region based on historical and observational evidence from the local people.

Solomon Islands Expedition members, Malaita
Tommy, Sale, Jimson and Nabe inspecting West Kwaio before we headed back down from Mt Tolobusu, Solomon Islands. Image: Tyrone Lavery
© Australian Museum

The search for the giant rat proved to be more successful from a results perspective. Observations made historically by the locals gave Tyrone confidence in his research. A break through was made with the discovery of ngali nuts (a local Canarium tree nut) which had distinctive chew marks on them – marks that differed to the ones left by the introduced common black rat (Rattus rattus). Could this be the evidence needed to prove that the giant rat still exists?
One conclusion drawn from the workshop is that more research is required, something the team from the region are keen to continue, pending funding opportunities. Further community engagement, trust building and cohesion of western scientific and indigenous ideas about biodiversity conservation was also identified as an immediate need moving forward.

We are very positive about the progress of the Solomon Islands Expedition and look forward to continuing to be a collaborator in the innovative projects that stem from it. Our friends from the region are highly optimistic about the impacts they plan to have in their communities and spreading the word about the importance of biodiversity conservation to their livelihoods and their culture.

Alexandra Nuttall, AMRI and External Partnerships Coordinator