In 2014, BCI launched a collaborative conservation initiative for the three endangered bats of Fiji. The archipelago of 333 islands is home to only six native mammals, all of them bat species. These include the critically endangered Mirimiri (Mirimiri acrodonta; shown at right), the endangered Fijian free-tailed bat (Chaerephon bregullae) and the endangered Pacific sheath-tailed bat (Emballonura semicaudata).
The Mirimiri is only found on the upper ridges of the volcanic Fijian island of Taveuni, and the last confirmed sighting of this species was in May 2009. Due to its critically endangered status on the IUCN Red List and its restriction to a single remaining site, this species has been recognized as a priority by the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE). This alliance engages 88 non-governmental biodiversity conservation organizations around the world in identifying and safeguarding the last remaining places of endangered or critically endangered species.
Unfortunately, the threats to Fiji’s bats are all too familiar—extensive deforestation, cave disturbance, hunting, lack of scientific information and persecution. However, BCI remains cautiously optimistic in this case, as we have begun to collaborate with an amazing group of in-country partners and international organizations. These include NatureFiji MareqetiViti, National Trust of Fiji, University of South Pacific, the Smithsonian and Fiji’s government, to name a few. (For details on BCI’s recent partnership in Fiji with the International National Trusts Organisation, see the sidebar on page 9.)
Together, we are developing and starting to implement a unified national bat conservation vision. Our next steps are to work with local communities to secure and restore the only known maternity cave of the Fijian free-tailed bat and to launch a field expedition to better understand the distribution and critical roosts for Fiji’s endangered bats to inform our conservation actions.