Termites Are Progressively Eating Away At Samoan Culture

Termites are well known insect pests in just about every corner of the world. Although termites cause billions of dollars in structural damages in the United States every year, there are several other regions of the world where termite activity is even greater than it is in the US. No country spends more money on termite prevention efforts, and repairs than the US. However, termite species are far more abundant in tropical regions than they are in the United States. Most tropical termite species are not considered pests, as they only feed on decaying plant matter located deep within uninhabited forests. However, termites can become problematic on tropical islands that have become highly populated with humans. The highly populated Hawaiian Islands, for example, contain numerous termite species that have become accustomed to feeding on manmade structures. For residents of Hawaii destructive termites are an everyday reality. In addition to Hawaii, the tropical Samoan Islands also contain many destructive termite species. For decades citizens of Samoa have witnessed the termite-induced destruction of many historically significant structures. This destruction is distressful to Samoans, as their cultural identity is well represented in the Island’s oldest manmade structures. The most recent building to come under termite attack in Samoa is the old courthouse in Apia. As a result of a widespread infestation, government officials are planning on replacing the courthouse with a modern hotel.

According to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, the old courthouse located in Samoa’s capital has been condemned for years due to a long-running termite infestation. Instead of making efforts to preserve the courthouse, government officials want to demolish the structure in order to build a new hotel. The courthouse is the oldest remaining timber-framed building that had been constructed by German colonials on the island prior to Samoan independence. The most vocal critic of the demolition has been AUT University Professor of Pacific Studies, Tagaloa Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop. Another notable Samoan, Tuiasau Petaia, a journalist and actor, said that the destruction of the old courthouse is unfortunate, but probably necessary, as the structure is no longer safe due to the years of termite damage. The UNESCO Heritage Agency claimed that the courthouse in Apia is one of the last remaining timber framed German colonial structures  in the world.

Do you think that every method of termite eradication should be exhausted before the demolition of a historically significant structure is considered?

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