A reception on Tarawa!

New England Aquarium President and CEO Bud Ris recently attended a meeting of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) Trust in Tarawa, Kiribati. He was accompanied by Conservation Projects Coordinator Regen Jamieson. In this post, she explains what happens at these important meetings, and she shares pictures and stories about a special reception in honor of this gathering.

The Trust meeting went from lunchtime until dinnertime on Thursday. The board was given presentation to inform them on the state of PIPA and the management activities that are going on, including recent invasive eradication programs and the workplan for 2012 under the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Project. Day two was a closed session with just the directors present. 

While the PIPA Trust is not the management entity, it is important that the directors know what it is they are working to protect and what progress has been made and what work still needs to be done. The GEF funding provides implementation management funding for the first three years of management activities, until PIPA Trust conservation endowment is fully capitalized and revenues are realized. 

To formally close the PIPA Trust meeting, Minister Kwong invited the board members, me, members of the Conservation International team and various government officials to a reception hosted at the Kiribati Parliament House. It was a wonderful evening of good food and entertainment.

Kiribati Parliament House, Tarawa. Kiribati's national motto is Te Mauri Te Raoi ao Te Tabomoa meaning Health, Peace and Prosperity

PIPA Trust board members Minister Kwong (left), Bud Ris (second to left), and Greg Stone (far right) spoke at length with President of Kiribati, the Honourable Anote Tong at the reception.

During the formal part of the evening, Minister Kwong gave a short speech, and then Greg was invited up to say a few words. Next on the program was a huge surprise for all of us — they played for us a Kiribati modern song, written by Betarim Rimon who helped develop the PIPA Logo. It was a particularly noteworthy song because it was actually about the protected area called, "PIPA you are my gift to humanity."

A young I-Kiribati troupe performed traditional dance for us. They were fantastic, and this was by far my favorite part of the evening. I learned that the movements of the I-Kiribati dance are to resemble the flight and movement of the frigatebird, the bird found on the Kiribati flag, and the hip movements are imitations of the movements of the ocean.

Towards the end of the traditional dancing, the dancers hand our flower headpieces to everyone in attendance.  In this photo of me you can see one table of the banquet that we had, which included two roasted pigs.

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