Revolutionizing Pest Control: Maldives' Eco-Friendly Journey Towards Mosquito-Free Sustainability

Vacationers, familiar with the annoyance of mosquito swarms disrupting scenic hikes or tranquil beach retreats, understand the significant impact even small pests can have on a getaway. Beyond being a mere nuisance, mosquitoes pose serious health risks as carriers of diseases like malaria, dengue, and zika. Soneva Fushi, a resort on the secluded Kunfunadhoo Island in the Maldives, has dedicated years to combating these pests, successfully reducing mosquito populations and revitalizing the island's tropical ecosystem. Teaming up with the German company Biogents, Soneva implemented mosquito traps utilizing environmentally friendly attractants, marking a chemical-free approach to mosquito management, championed by Arnfinn Oines, Soneva's Director of Social and Environmental Consciousness.

The region has grappled with a persistent mosquito problem, exacerbated during the monsoon season from May to November. Various methods were attempted, including the use of traps and efforts to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds, each presenting its own set of challenges. Another strategy involved "hot fogging and mist blowing," techniques imprecise in targeting only the insects with insecticides, causing discomfort for guests and hosts. Despite attempts at discreet application, these methods disturbed guests, and, over time, adult mosquitoes developed resistance, rendering the chemicals ineffective. In contrast, the Biogents system, introduced by Soneva in 2019, utilized two trap types—over 500 in total—positioned across Kunfunadhoo Island. The first, BG-GAT, is a passive trap designed for tiger mosquitoes seeking egg-laying spots after biting someone, as explained by Oines.

The second variant, the BG-Mosquitaire CO2, is designed to lure mosquitoes searching for blood, utilizing carbon dioxide produced through yeast and sugar fermentation, alongside lactic acid mimicking human skin. “The BG-Mosquitaire CO2 is unique and effective in that it simulates humans by using CO2 and the smell of sweat,” remarked Oines. Essentially, these devices replicate human scents and "breathing," attracting and containing mosquitoes. In the initial weeks, the traps successfully captured thousands of mosquitoes daily.

Beyond deploying traps, the resort has undertaken initiatives to educate staff on mosquito ecology. The Soneva team conducts property inspections to identify and mitigate factors like tarps and fallen coconut shells that could harbor stagnant water—essential for mosquito breeding.

The pest-control program has proven successful, with Soneva reporting a remarkable reduction of over 98% in the island's mosquito population within the first year. Oines stated, “We counted the mosquitoes caught on a daily basis — the counting certainly got easier as the numbers were reduced. We received many positive comments from repeat guests who come back year after year and thus noticed the difference.”

The Biogents trap system has demonstrated prolonged effectiveness, without concerns of bugs developing resistance to the method. Furthermore, since discontinuing the use of chemicals, the native insects in the Maldives are experiencing a resurgence. “This natural pollinators are now back in abundance, which means there are more flowers, more fruits, and more produce,” notes Oines. The increase in fruits and insects has also led to more birds visiting the shores of Kunfunadhoo, and fireflies are once again visible at night.

The emphasis on biodiversity, coupled with eco-friendly and sustainable methods, aligns with the resort's foundational principles. Founded by Sonu and Eva Shivdasani in 1995, Soneva Fushi has been a pioneer in environmental sustainability. Their vision introduced initiatives such as recycling, energy conservation, and waste reduction in the region.

Today, Soneva Fushi continues to exemplify sustainable luxury in the hospitality sector, upholding a zero-waste philosophy and implementing innovative coral restoration programs, in addition to adopting chemical-free pest control methods.

Through collaboration with Biogents for eco-friendly mosquito elimination, Soneva aspires to become the first mosquito-free island in the Maldives. Their commitment extends beyond self-interest, as the resort chain has donated mosquito traps to the Parliament in Malé, the capital, and provided training to staff for their utilization.

Soneva Jani, situated on the island of Medhufaru in the Noonu Atoll, has also adopted the Biogents system, yielding comparable results. Moreover, traps have been installed at the upcoming resort, Soneva Secret, set to open in early 2024, where no mosquitoes have been recorded over several months.

Arnfinn Oines expresses optimism about opening a mosquito-free resort in the coming year. Furthermore, Soneva's efforts have inspired other resorts to follow suit, fostering the hope that the entire Maldives can achieve a mosquito-free status.

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