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Keeping our wildlife safe

Ana Madigibuli
Sunday, March 04, 2018

ENHANCING biodiversity and habitat conservation, protecting endangered species, and promoting sustainable use of Fiji's resources are some ways in helping Fiji's wildlife.

World Wildlife Day was celebrated yesterday around the world with the theme "Big cats: predators under threat".

NatureFiji-MareqetiViti director Nunia Thomas-Moko said even though the theme for the World Wildlife Day this year didn't affect Fiji directly, it was important to learn about what other countries go through in protecting their wildlife and understanding their ways or methods of doing it.

She said Fiji had endangered species that needed to be protected and in order to do that people needed to maintain its diversity and habitats, and its ecological integrity.

To mark World Wildlife Day, the team at NatureFiji-MareqetiViti stressed the need for people to learn more about Fiji's endangered species like the red-throated lorikeet or kulawai (charmosyna amabilis), Fiji's flying fox or mirimiri (Mirimiri acrodonta) and the Fiji petrel or kacau ni Gau (pseudobulweria macgillivrayi) which appear on Fiji's $5 note, 10 cent coin and $20 note.

She said the red-throated lorikeet or kulawai was a small and delicate lorikeet that measures up to 18cm from beak-tip to tail-tip. It is found in mature forest with exceptional observation in mangroves on Ovalau. No breeding observations have ever been recorded.

"It is a very rare bird. When encountered, it is usually found in small flocks feeding high in the canopy of trees," she said.

"The red-throated lorikeet gives way to both collared lories and wattled honeyeaters at feeding sites. All recent observations on Viti Levu have been in highland areas around Mt Tomaniivi and there have been no recent observations on other islands but did include some at lower elevations."

She said the bird faced a major threat from introduced ship rat (rattus rattus) which were now a common rat in Fiji's forest and was known to be a serious predator of nesting Pacific lories and lorikeets.

"The last confirmed sighting of the bird was in 1993 and recent intensive surveys for the red-throated lorikeet had failed. An intensive three-month survey in 2002, specifically for the lorikeet on Viti Levu and Taveuni, failed too and more than 30 BirdLife International forest surveys between the years 2003 and 2006 and a two-week intensive lorikeet survey in January 2008 have all failed to find the critically endangered bird.

"This is likely to be our most endangered bird. It may well be extinct, but for the time being, the IUCN Red List category of this species has been moved from endangered to critically endangered."

The flying fox or Mirimiri acrodonta is an endemic bat which is one of the world's rarest mammals, and Fiji's only endemic mammal today.

She said the Fiji flying fox had only ever been found in the highlands of Taveuni.

"The Fiji flying fox was first captured in 1976 and introduced to the scientific community in 1978. After that it was only known from the three specimens taken by the Australian museum in 1990. In 2009, a pregnant female was captured and released in Des Voeux peak on Taveuni," she said.

Fiji's petrel or kacau ni Gau (Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi) is a small, all black-brown petrel with a short neck and stout black bill that gives a chunky thickset look.

"This bird is only known to nest on the island of Gau and so is considered endemic to that island. Even though it nests on a particular island it forages at sea, well away from the island, quite possibly several hundred kilometres away or more," she said.

"It is a seabird and as far as we know, nests in burrows on high forested ridges in the interior of Gau and disperses to pelagic waters far from the islands.

"Our work on the collared petrel on Gau has shown that cats are a predator. On average, our team has found five to 15 corpses out of the 50-60 active collared petrel nests per year. Other threats include rats and wild pigs."

She said the Fiji petrel was listed as a critically endangered species in the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species.

"We believe that our biodiversity issues need to be locally driven because there is no one else in the world that we can depend on to do this.

"Our endemic species are found only in Fiji and nowhere else in the world, so it is our responsibility to ensure that we can co-exist, and that our children and future generations enjoy the same benefits that we do now from nature's free ecosystem services," she said.

Since its establishment in 2007, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti has managed more than 70 projects relating to Fiji's wildlife.

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