Mose and the Manumea
Found nowhere else but Samoa, the manumea is as symbolic to Samoa as the kiwi is to New Zealand.
It is the national bird of Samoa, and while Samoans and visitors to the Pacific nation see it every day on the 50 sene coin and $20 tala note, it is so rarely seen in its natural habitat, the forest.
The manumea is also highly endangered, and if nothing is done soon to prevent its decline, it will disappear for good.
Aiming to create awareness around the decline of Samoa’s national bird, as well as increase literacy among Samoan and NZ children, two authors - Rebecca Stirnemann and Jane Va'afusuaga have joined forces to write the beautiful book Mose and the Manumea.
Thestory of a little boy in Samoa who goes looking for the endangered manumea bird will be published by Auckland-based Little Island Press, in both Samoan and English next month.
For the authors, inspiration for the book came from concern about saving the bird Rebecca has heard referred to as “the princess of the forest”, the conservationist/author says.
“I have spent seven amazing years working on endangered birds in Samoa with my Samoan colleagues trudging through mud, bathed in green, and bitten by mosquitoes - yet every day we discovered something amazing which made it worthwhile,” Rebecca says.
Every time she entered the forest, she searched for the manumea, but she very rarely spotted one which became worrying.
“Now is the time to take action to save this species so the children who read this story might one day find this amazing species,” she says.
Jane says seeing the work Rebecca and other conservationists have been doing in Samoa to protect endemic birds has been her motivation to jump on-board to help save the manumea.
“One day, Rebecca and I were talking about raising awareness for the need to protect the manumea,” Jane explains.
“We thought about making a poster or a brochure but we decided to write a book for children that would be published in both Samoan and English.”
The pair did not have to look far for material - Jane’s 10-year-old daughter is interested in birds and is an avid bird watcher, Jane adds.
“She has spotted many different native birds in our garden and in the forest, but she has never seen a manumea although she is always on the look-out for one.
“Rebecca and I thought searching for a manumea would make an interesting story for kids in Samoa to read and it would also be great for kids in New Zealand and other countries to learn about the manumea too.
“The more people who know about the importance of saving the manumea, the better.”
Both authors agree it is vital to publish more books in Pacific languages, which are made available region-wide.
This helps keep the culture alive through language and literacy, while also promoting literacy in children throughout Samoa in this instance, as they can relate to Mose and the Manumea and its images.
It also spreads the message about important issues such as conserving a species.
Rebecca says Mose and the Manumea is about adventure in Samoa and some of the amazing things you can experience there.
“We hope it will encourage more people to value and love their forests and not only see them as unused land.
“It is important books like this are published in Pacific languages so all people realise nature is in crisis and needs their help – by publishing in Samoan we reach the many people who do not speak English.”
Jane adds it is hoped the book will become a valuable educational resource for children in Samoa and for Samoan speaking children who live overseas.
It is also exciting to see a book set in Samoa, she says.
“The illustrator Christina (Brady) has depicted the Samoan scenes beautifully to be enjoyed by those who live in Samoa – they will recognise them.
“She has successfully brought a piece of Samoa to those readers who live overseas and may or may not have visited the Pacific.”
Mose and the Manumea is a story to be enjoyed, it contains interesting facts about birds and other species in Samoa but most importantly, it carries a valuable message in regards to conservation for the next generation, she says.
The book will launch in Samoa, followed by a launch at Auckland Zoo, which is administering the Manumea Protection Programme in Samoa.