3rd Day of Christmas with NatureFiji-MareqetiViti

3rd Day of Christmas with NatureFiji-MareqetiViti

On the third day of Christmas NFMV shared with me:

Two friendly ground doves
And a fruit dove in a mango tree.

Fiji’s Flying Foxes
Many people are frightened of bats because of the legends of blood sucking vampires. Bats are really amazing creatures that play essential roles in the balance of Nature!
Our gift to you today is to open your eyes to these incredible animals by sharing information about three of our very own bats. We hope you will grow to love and value them. You may well wish to help them in return.
Read on to find out more!
So far you have learned about fabulous fruit doves. Today we are going to share some bat facts and a template for your very own Fiji blossom bat mask, giving you a great chance to recycle Christmas packaging.

Fiji has 6 species of native bats, three of which are cave roosting bats, while the other three roost in trees.

Three are frugivorous, two are insectivorous and one is nectarivorous. Today we will tell you about one of each.


The Fijian Free-Tailed Bat (Tadarida bregullae)

Our Fijian free-tailed bat is insectivorous (it eats insects)
Insectivorous bats catch the insects in the dark. They find them by echolocation. As they fly, they give out a continuous series of high pitched squeaks. The sounds bounce off the insects and back to the bat’s VERY large ears so they can move in and slurp them up!
Free-tailed bats are part of the culture, tradition and history of the people in Nakanacagi, who have certain activities associated with their ‘bekabeka’. Fijian free tailed bat is tiny and very cute. It is only about 7 cm long (about the same length as your little finger!)

Although they are also found in Vanuatu, Nakanacagi Cave in Macuata is VERY important place for bats.

Because NFMV and other bat ecologists provide so much information, it is recognized as the World’s representative of the cave roosting site for the Fijian free tailed bat.

Fijian free-tailed bats are the farmers’ best friends. By controlling the insect population of the area, they prevent them from destroying crops.

Although the Macuata provincial office has been working very closely with NFMV to protect them, the bats are NOT safe!
Part of the bat cave structure runs under an old logging access road so is threatened by diggers upgrading the road, and logging trucks laden with heavy logs.
The cave has been cracking in places and there are bat entrances inside the cave that have crumbled in.
If this continues, the whole cave could be destroyed. Our endangered free-tailed bats would be destroyed, never to return!

Fiji′s cave dwelling bats.

Fiji′s cave dwelling bats.

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Fiji Flying Fox (Mirimiri acrodonata)

Fiji Flying Fox. Taveuni Island. Picture: Guy Bottroff
Fiji Flying Fox. Taveuni Island. Picture: Guy Bottroff

• The Fiji flying fox is a frugivorous (fruit-eating) bat
• It is the smallest of the three fruit bats found in Fiji, with adult body size (nose tip – anus) ranging from 18cm (females) to 20cm (males).
• It is Critically Endangered ( VERY rare). In 2009, a 40 day search resulted in the capture and release of just one Fiji flying fox (a pregnant female). The first to be seen in about 19 years! Because so few have been recorded, there is still a lot to learn but it does show how few there are!
• The fur of the Fijian flying fox is a dull olive green to yellow in colour .The mantle and head is soft and khaki. The hair over the back and rump is shorter in length and khaki in females, but golden in males.
• The eyes are a distinguishing feature in that they are bright orange in colour.
• The Fijian Flying fox has unusual cuspidate (pointed) teeth, which are not found in any other Fijian fruit bat or flying fox so it probably eats fruit and plant material that is tougher than typical for other Fiji fruit bats.
•It is nocturnal (is active at night-time)
•We think it roost in pairs in epiphytic fern clumps (6-10m height above ground) on trunks of larger trees.

It is in serious danger of becoming extinct because as far as we know, it is only found on Taveuni and only in montane cloud forest above 900m (which is vulnerable to climate change and slow to recover after hurricanes).

You can find out more here in our endangered species section!

The Fijian Blossom Bat (Notopteris macdonaldi

The Fiji Blossom bat is quite small, with body size (nose-tip to anus) of about 10cm.
This nectarivorous bat has a very long nose which probably helps it to reach nectar in flowers.

The Fiji Blossom bat has a free tail looks like that of a mouse.
The wings meet in the back midline making it look wrinkled.

Fiji Blossom bat, Viti Levu
Fiji Blossom bat, Viti Levu

Some more basic facts about the Fiji Blossom bat!

It roosts in very large numbers (THOUSANDS) in caves with very high ceilings in the lowlands,but travels all the way up to the montane forests highlands to feed.
They always go back to the same roosts!
Viti Levu is possibly the only island with roosting populations or sites
Predation by introduced mammals such as the mongoose and cat are a threat to roosting populations.
Hunting for the Fiji Blossom bats is a problem. Because they roost in hundreds, or in thousands in caves, they are more vulnerable and are an easy target for hunters who can kill them in large numbers.
The lack of ecological knowledge on this species is in itself an obstacle to determining potential threats and appropriate conservation management issues.

Conservation Status
The Fijian population probably represents half the global population of this bat which became extinct from Tonga in prehistoric times. While it is not rare in Fiji, bone collections suggest that it was once more widespread than it is today. It is its roosting in caves that makes it vulnerable to predation and hunting, and is therefore listed as Vulnerable under the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species.

Now that you have learned more about these fantastic animals, have a go at making a mask.

Just print a copy or draw your own, add colour with paint or crayons and cut it out.

You can either: cut eye-holes and attach string or wool to hold it on OR fasten it to a smooth stick (make sure it doesn’t have any parts that will scratch your skin or eyes) and hold it in front of your face.

Make sure that the mask is upside down when you wear it (like a roosting bat).