Looking Closer at Fijian Wildlife

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Fiji female dancer

Story By Anne Franchesca Rosales / Photo by Selfiy via Shutterstock.com

When you think about Fiji holidays, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t exactly the wildlife. A holiday to Fiji generally conjures images of friendly smiling locals, crystal clear waters, soft pristine beaches and a lush tropical environment best enjoyed with a cocktail in hand. Although during your time enjoying the island you may encounter its exotic marine life, its wildlife is a whole other matter.

However, you may be surprised to learn that Fijian wildlife plays an important role in the island’s ecosystem and there is more diversity than you realise. By taking a closer look at Fijian wildlife you can appreciate just one more thing that makes the islands so special. In fact, there’s even a whole attraction dedicated to preserving and exploring the wildlife of Fiji.

Kula Eco Park

Kula Eco Park is located on Viti Levu’s Coral Coast and is home to hundreds of species of plants, birds and reptiles. Nestled in the valley of a coastal forest less than 1km from the ocean, the park has reached international acclaim and is an environmental showcase of the best of the South Pacific. As a full institutional member of the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks & Aquaria and an honorary associate of the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia, the park illustrates the wild side of Fiji.

Kula Eco Park works in conjunction with the Parks Board of New South Wales Australia, the Endangered Species Recovery Council of San Diego and the National Trust for Fiji and has been awarded Best Attraction in Fiji on multiple occasions by the Excellence in Tourism Awards. Within the park you could be lucky enough to discover pigeons, honey eaters, fantails, parrots, falcons, doves, butterflies, moths and even iguanas.

Birds

There are more than 100 species of birds that call the islands of Fiji home and although some of them can be rather elusive, the rainforests of Viti Levu, Kadavu, Taveuni and the south east of Vanua Levu are a great place to sight some of the most beautiful and even rare or endangered species including silk tails and nesting boobies. Some of the more common species that can be found easily include doves, falcons and parrots.

The Golden Dove can be found all over the Fijian islands and is renowned for its distinctive call that sounds like a young dog yapping. Its diet consists mainly of berries and fruits as well as caterpillars. Occasionally these birds can be heard uttering a hoarse, low growl and are more often heard than seen. However if you’re on the lookout for this species, the males feature striking yellow plumage and a more olive coloured head while the females are more green with a lighter yellow tinge on the edge of their wings.

The Orange Dove is another striking species renowned for its brilliant colour. Males have strange looking feathers that could almost be described as ‘hairy’ while the females, despite their name, are actually a dark green in colour with highlights of yellow under their tail. Their diet is much the same as the Golden Dove while their breeding habits are a little scarce, laying usually only 1 egg in the last half of the year. You won’t mistake spotting a male as they look like a flame as they dart by.

The Fiji Peregrine Falcon is a native species that is actually quite rare and attempts are being made to implement a breeding program to help save this endangered species. The falcons generally grow between 38cm to 46cm tall with the female being larger than the male. The species is characterised by sharp, powerful talons, a piercing hooked beak and extremely good eye sight. Used as hunting birds for thousands of years, the falcon preys on pigeons, parrots and even fruit bats.

The Red Breasted Musk Parrot is an endemic species that makes its home anywhere from mountain rainforests to mangroves. A social bird, these parrots often live in large noisy groups and eat a diet of seeds, fruits and caterpillars. There are 5 distinct races of this parrot including the well-known Kadavu race which features brilliant red feathers and a striking blue collar.  Averaging 45cm in size, the birds lay 2-3 eggs during nesting season from June to October.

The Sulphur Breasted Musk Parrot is a species native to Viti Levu however just like the Red Musk Parrot, it is a noisy and social species that likes to live in groups anywhere from the mangroves to the mountain forests. However slightly larger than the Red, these Sulphurs average 47cm in size and although they generally produce 2 eggs when they lay, nesting records are slim. Males have a flatter and squarer profile while females are more rounded. The male’s bill is also broader while the female’s is heavier.

Reptiles

Although Fiji is home to around 30 species of reptiles, only 12 are endemic to the islands. These include frogs, cane toads, geckos, skinks, snakes and iguanas. Whilst the majority of these seem quite common, it’s generally the iguanas that attract the most attention from visitors thanks to their exotic appearance. The two most common species of iguana found in Fiji are the crested iguana and the banded iguana.

The Crested Iguana is said to have arrived in Fiji from South America by floating across the Pacific Ocean on vegetable matter and reeds. Found only on Fiji’s dry leeward islands, 99% of the entire world population is found on an islet of Fiji. A solitary species, the only time these iguanas come together is to defend their territory or to mate. Recognised by their vibrant green colour and white markings, the iguana gets its name from the ‘frill’ of skin that sits atop its head. Their diet consists of blossoms, leaves and fruits and they grow to approximately 16cm. Females lay eggs which take between 21 to 35 weeks to hatch.

The Banded Iguana is commonly found on a number of Fijian islands, generally in lowland or coastal beach forests and swamps. Their diet consists of leaves, berries and fruits and their mating habits usually produce 3 to 6 eggs that are incubated for 18 to 30 weeks. A spectacular emerald green, males feature blue grey bands from their neck to their tail while females feature a yellow green underside. Males grow up to 56cm long and although the species has a lifespan of up to 20 years, numbers are declining due to eggs and habitats being destroyed by people and other animals.

One such animal is the Mongoose. A familiar sight wherever you go in Fiji, these strange little mammals that resemble a squirrel or rodent pose a threat to the iguanas as well as the harmless snakes that are native to Fiji. Imported to Fiji long ago to help with a rat problem, these fast-moving creatures are now doing more harm than good.

Take on walk on the wild side on your next lot of Fiji holidays and explore some of the more interesting and exotic species that call Fiji home.

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