The aim of the 'Endangered Species of Fiji' project is to provide information to the public, particularly high school students, tertiary level students and their teachers on 50 of Fiji's endangered species. This is done in the hope that their keen interest will lead them to support the conservation and much needed research on our very own diverse, and yet threatened flora and fauna. We particularly hope that some will become so enthused with our wonderful wildlife that they will pursue careers in research and conservation. While we are surrounded by sea and ocean, and our marine biodiversity is very rich and diverse, we share nearly all our marine biodiversity with our neighbours indeed, in most cases, with tropical islands and coastal countries around the world. The number of endemic marine species is very low, less than 20 are currently documented. In contrast, our terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems are not only biodiversity rich but also contain a very large number of endemic species, over 946 are currently known.
(Refer to Table 1). It is our endemic species whose conservation we are exclusively responsible for - no other country can do this for us. On the other hand, we share responsibility for the conservation of turtles and other marine species with tens if not hundreds of other countries. It is for this reason that the 'Endangered Species of Fiji' are almost exclusively terrestrial. This does not mean that conserving marine habitats and species is unimportant, it is very important especially with respect to sustainable use; however, our terrestrial species and our forests in particular are clearly the priority.
It is important to note that there are many more than 50 endangered species in Fiji and this project only highlights 16 % of that number. For instance we know of over 100 plants which have been described as separate species from a single collection at one place (the type locality) but we have no more information at all about that plant ... nobody has been to find it again !! There are even more insects known, like these plants, from the type collection. While this is a limitation to the project, it is a challenge to the students and teachers to find out more about all our other endangered wildlife and to take measures to ensure that they do not become extinct because of our neglect through research and conservation management.
Selection Criteria for Inclusion in the Endangered Species of Fiji
Main categories of plants and animals for the 'Endangered Species of Fiji' are listed as follows:
- Reptiles (lizards, iguanas, snakes, turtles)
- Amphibians (frogs)
- Fish (freshwater and marine fin fishes)
- Mammals (bats)
- Invertebrates (terrestrial arthropods and gastropods)
The project first drew up a list of candidate species based on the criteria below and these were then checked by a group of specialists asked to oversee the selection.
- An IUCN Redlist Threatened species
- Listed in the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
- Listed in the Endangered Species Protection Act (2002)Schedules
- Identified in Fiji's Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP 2007)
- Threatened species known by local experts but not yet listed in the national and international documents.
- Culturally important
- Occurs in an endangered ecosystem
- Endemic to Fiji
All qualifying species fell in at least four of the above categories. It is important to note that not all the species selected for inclusion are IUCN Redlisted species, this is because IUCN requires some information on the species to make a listing and in the absence of that information, no listing is made. IUCN also requires the information to be provided by specialists and for many groups we do not yet have specialists. In addition, there are several species that are culturally important which have been included in our list.
On finalising species selection, several research methods were employed to gather the information for the text: The most important was interviews and/or correspondence with individuals who are specialists in the various groups and know their current conservation status (refer Acknowledgements). In addition, library and archival research was undertaken using books, scientific journals, Fiji museum journals, magazines and the internet.
Much of the information gathered here is known to very few people in the scientific and conservation field. This is Fiji's first comprehensive list of some of our endangered species to be publicised, and be made known to students and teachers.