It takes many voices to create a brighter future for Fiji's bats.

A small port near Savusavu, Fiji Courtesy of Kevin Pierson/BCI

To many, the mention of Fiji conjures up images of sugar-sand beaches, crystalline waters, and fruity tropical drinks. But this island nation – which consists of 333 islands in the heart of the South Pacific is much more than a vacation destination.

When one moves beyond glitz and glamour of the resorts, they will find a country whose volcanic interior, dotted with cloud forests and caves, plays host to a myriad of lifeforms.  This includes Fijis six native species of mammals, which all happen to be bats.

Such a natural paradise, however, is not without its drawbacks.  In a country where the gross domestic product from forestry and agriculture outpaces even tourism, suitable habitat for these bats is coming under increased pressure.  Five of the six Fijian bat species find themselves threatened with extinction.

For the past several years, BCI has been working with local partners to identify and protect critical habitat for these bats species. One such location – Nakanacagi Cave is home to the only known maternity colony for the critically endangered Fijian free-tailed bat. In fact, this single roost is home to over 95% of the global population for this species.

The team participated in several sevusevus – traditional ceremonies were visitors present gifts to the village elders as a sign of respect. Courtesy of Kevin Pierson/BCI

This May, members of BCIs Conservation Team traveled back to Fiji to work with the newly-formed Fijian Bat Conservation Initiative Stakeholders Group. Together, they developed a new National Park in Fiji centered around Nakanacagi Cave. It’s the first such protected sanctuary to open in the island nation in 10 years.

The group was also able to confirm two new roosting sites for the endangered Pacific sheath-tailed bats, as well as collect over 1 terabyte of raw bat location data that will further help conservation efforts on the island.

BCI with members of the Fijian Bat Conservation Initiative Stakeholders Group Courtesy of Kevin Pierson/BCI

Bat conservation is often maddingly hard work, but sometimes things come together and – BAM – you have some wins! remarks Jason Corbett, Director of BCIs Subterranean Program.

With our conservation group up and running, finding two new roosts for the endangered Pacific sheath-tailed bats, and getting the next 2-4 years of work planned out, this trip was very productive and exciting.

Members of the coalition include: Bat Conservation International, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti, University of South Pacific, National Trust of Fiji, International Union for Conservation of Nature, World Wildlife Foundation of Fiji, Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Rainforest Trust.