Nakauvadra Expedition with funding secured by Conservation International, organised by the South Pacific Regional Herbarium.

We received our Christmas present early this year when the herpertofauna team of the Nakauvadra Scientific and Archeological Expedition rediscovered Fiji’s endangered and endemic Fiji Ground Frog (Platymantis vitianus) on the 18th of November, 2008.

Locally known as Dreli, Boto ni Viti, or Ula, the Fiji ground frog is one of Fiji’s three endemic frogs.

Naturalists working in Fiji over the past 20 years had widely accepted that two species:

  • the Fiji ground frog (P. vitianus) and;
  • the Megabotoniviti (P. megabotoniviti)

had been consumed to extinction by the introduced mongoose and humans on Vanua Levu and Viti Levu.

Until the initial rediscovery of a population of the Fiji ground frogs in the Waisali Forest Reserve (Vanua Levu) by the South Pacific Regional Herbarium of USP in 2003, Fiji ground frogs were thought to only persist on the mongoose-free islands of Gau, Ovalau, Taveuni and Viwa (Tailevu).

Local herpetologists (many of whom are members of our Nature Club) have in the past five years searched for surviving populations of the ground frogs in likely frog habitats on both Vanua Levu and Viti Levu.

Whilst surveys on Vanua Levu had proved successful with more discoveries of ground frog populations, the Viti Levu surveys into the Savura, Sovi Basin, Wabu and Tomaniivi Forest reserves suggested that these frogs had indeed perished on Viti Levu.

The rediscovery of the Fiji ground frogs was made in the first night near the expedition campsite.

“This rediscovery highlights the fact that we know so little about our own forests and the animals that inhabit them. Imagine how much more we would discover if we got our young people involved in learning about our plants and animals and their habitat.

It is expeditions and research such as these that paint a more accurate picture of our unique wildlife in Fiji” Ms Nunia Thomas – NatureFiji-MareqetiViti coordinator and Herpetofauna team leader.

“The rediscovery of the Fiji ground frogs (and a few other unique species) during the expedition supports the notion that the Nakauvadra Range is like “noah’s ark” or an “island refuge” for some of our endangered wildlife” Mr. Marika Tuiwawa, Curator of the South Pacific Regional Herbarium and Nakauvadra expedition team leader.

The Nakauvadra Expedition was organized by the South Pacific Regional Herbarium of the Institute of Applied Science, University of the South Pacific with funding secured by Conservation International (Fiji) from FIJI Water.

The expedition team was composed of experts in the different fields of Botany and vegetation ecology, Herpetology, Entomology, Ornithology, Icythology and Archeology from various government agencies, conservation non-governmental organizations and institutions like: the University of the South Pacific, Department of Forestry, National Trust for Fiji, Fiji Museum, Conservation International, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti, and Wetlands International.

The villagers of Vatukacevaceva, Narara, Rewasa and Vunisea played a key role in the expedition as the guides and experts of the terrain and biodiversity of the Nakauvadra Range.

NatureFiji-MareqetiViti staff: Dr. Dick Watling and and Nunia Thomas were part of the Nakauvadra Scientific and Archeological Expedition. Dr. Watling led the Ornithology team whilst Nunia led the Herpetofauna team.

NFMV is grateful to the funders and organisers, Conservation International and the South Pacific Regional Herbarium for the providing the team with the opportunity to participate in the expedition.

A special mention goes to the villages of Vatukacevaceva, Narara, Rewasa, and Vunisea for their guidance and keen participation in the field.