Kunfunadhoo, Maldives, To Become World’s First Mosquito-Free Island

Kunfunadhoo is a 50-hectare island with a lush tropical forest and a single sustainable luxury resort (Soneva Fushi) made up of 71 guest villas. The only people who live on the exclusive resort island are Soneva Fushi staff – about 400 people.

Soneva Fushi has been collaborating with a company leading in international mosquito control research (called Biogents) since June 2019 to introduce a sustainable insecticide-free mosquito management system. Soneva Fushi’s Zero Mosquito project aims to eradicate mosquitoes on Kunfunadhoo (Baa Atoll, Maldives) and improve biodiversity while eliminating the use of harmful pesticides.

Sonu Shivdasani, Soneva Fushi’s founder, and CEO told Globetrender why his luxury eco-resort is eliminating mosquitoes across the Maldives island without the use of chemicals:

"Imagine a Maldives without dengue fever. Imagine the Maldives without chikungunya. Imagine taking your children for an evening stroll without having to fear being bitten by mosquitoes. In short, imagine the Maldives without mosquitoes".

"This no longer needs to be a dream – it is fast becoming a reality. In the past 15 months, the mosquito population at Soneva Fushi on Baa Atoll Kunfunadhoo has collapsed by 98%. Over the same period, we stopped all chemical fogging".

They want this project to serve as a model that can be replicated on other island destinations. The goal is to reduce mosquito-borne diseases ultimately.

Shivdasani said:

"Nobody should have to go through the heartache of watching a loved one battle dengue fever. The revolutionary approach to pest control adopted at Soneva Fushi demonstrates that we can – island by island, atoll by atoll – rid the Maldives of the menace of mosquitoes".

The use of chemical fogging to manage the mosquito population is a typical approach at many resorts in the Maldives – Sovenva Fuhi was among them. However, they realized that the mosquitos built a resistance to the treatment, rendering it ineffective.

Shivdasani said:

"Chemical fogging has been done so much in the Maldives over the past decades that mosquitoes have built up an extraordinary level of resistance to the chemicals used. Before we started our mosquito trap initiative on Soneva Fushi, we used standard WHO insecticide-resistance assays. We found, to our shock, that the chemicals we sprayed year after year, at a high cost, killed less than 25% of the exposed mosquitoes".

Moreover, fogging was also reducing the number of other insects, including beetles, bumblebees, butterflies, dragonflies, and more. But now, with the new chemical-free system, biodiversity is booming. The return of natural pollinators has resulted in more flowers and fruits, which has brought more birds to the island. Even fireflies are spotted in the night sky once again! And the organic gardens that produce food for the restaurants are flourishing.

Since Kunfunadhoo has no freshwater aquatic ecosystems where mosquito larvae are a necessary part of the food chain, eliminating mosquitos from the island won’t impact the ecosystem.

Soneva-Fushi resort
So how does the system work? There are two types of mosquito traps deployed across the island – over 500 altogether. The two traps are:

  • The BG-GAT is a passive trap that targets egg-laying tiger mosquitos that have already bitten someone and search for a spot to lay eggs.
  • The BG-Mosquitaire CO2 attracts blood-thirsty mosquitos by emitting an aroma of carbon dioxide mixed with lactic acid. The CO2 in the trap is produced through yeast and sugar fermentation. Normally humans breathe it out. The lactic acid humans emanate from the skin. The combined smell is an irresistible aroma mosquitoes mistake for a human.

Additionally, Bart Knols and Akib Jahir (Soneva’s mosquito-hunters-in-chief) scour the island for mosquito breeding sites and destroy them. Meaning, they go around removing pools of stagnant water and objects like tarpaulins, coconut shells, or flowerpot saucers that could collect water.

The project costs $87,000 per year, which is $23,000 less than the pest management company’s annual fee.
The partnership aims to show the international community that its possible to bring the mosquito population to zero without using insecticide.

Shivdasani said:

"By around the end of the year, Soneva Fushi hopes to eliminate the few remaining mosquitoes and declare itself the Maldives’ first ‘mosquito-free island.’"

"If Soneva Fushi – a big jungly island with lots of people – can go mosquito-free, then surely every other Maldivian island can too. We have already started implementing the new mosquito control methods at Soneva Jani in Noonu atoll – which will hopefully become the second island in the Maldives to declare itself ‘mosquito-free.’"

Soneva’s target is for Kunfunadhoo to be mosquito-free by the end of April 2021.

This article first appeared here.

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