Exciting Find: New Record of Bat Roost

New record for the Blossom bat, Notopteris macdonaldi, at Nabukelevu in Serua province.

NatureFiji-Mareqeti Viti conservation officer, Kelera Macedru was very excited and happy to visit a new bat cave record for Viti Levu.

She was informed of the possible roost site whilst conducting awareness workshops with villages in the Namosi province, in association with Rivers Fiji. One of the Rivers Fiji guides who hails from the area told her of the bat cave, on the Nabukelevu village land. Kelera and Joanne Malotaux (NFMV’s current international volunteer) trekked through the dense forest to take a look at the cave and its inhabitants.

Entrance to the Nabukelevu bat cave.
Entrance to the Nabukelevu bat cave.

They were rewarded for their efforts as the isolated volcanic rock cave is home to a healthy population of Fiji blossom bats (Notopteris macdonaldi), a ‘vulnerable” bat species that is found only in Fiji and Vanuatu.

The Fiji blossom bat became extinct from Tonga in pre-historic times, and Fiji is home to more than half the global population – so this is a very special find. rnIn Fiji, the Fiji blossom bat is known to breed only on Viti Levu although it has been seen on Vanua Levu and Taveuni.

The species feeds on flowers and nectar and its favoured feeding grounds are in lowland forest, although it is occasionally seen in cultivated areas and upland forest. Cave-dwelling bats are known to be sensitive to disturbances of their roosts.

The Nabukelevu roost, which has escaped recording, is a fair hike from the village in rugged terrain, and its inaccessability is likely to have protected the colony from being disturbed.

The Fiji blossom bat is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List (2011), as its distribution is very fragmented and there is a continuing threat of over-exploitation and habitat degradation/destruction.

A young Blossom bat nestles in Joanne's hands.
A young Blossom bat nestles in Joanne’s hands.

Of the four previously known cave roosts (Kalabu, Wainibuku, Tatuba and Wailotua), only Wailotua and Tatuba have been confirmed to still exist in the recent past.

The status of the Wainibuku and Kalabu roosts are unknown. rnrnFiji blossom bats are very distinct in appearance from Fiji’s other two cave dwelling bats in having a long nose and a long tail.

It is the world’s only cave-dwelling fruit bat and its anatomy is one of the most primitive for fruit bats. rnrnTourism (through cave entry) and large scale hunting have been attributed to be the main cause of roost extinction and colony decline. rnrnSadly, as with Fiji’s other five species of bats, lack of ecological knowledge on this species is in itself an obstacle to determining potential threats and appropriate conservation management issues.

NatureFiji-MareqetiViti is currently working towards gathering this much needed data, and developing best practices for Fiji’s bat caves.

We are very grateful to the villagers of Nabukelevu for continuing to protect their blossom bats and for sharing their knowledge with us.

We trust that they will continue to look after this very special bat.