Whales of Fiji
Little preparation is necessary to enjoy some of the great whale-watching spots, but sometimes a little planning can enhance the experience. Knowing typical whale behavior, the species you might see and the features that will help you identify the different species can really make a difference. and add to your overall experience. There are two types of whales; baleen and toothed. The key difference between them is the way they feed and what they have inside their mouth. (WDC, 2021)
Baleen whales are generally huge, yet they survive on the teeniest (and most abundant) animals in the ocean; they are filter-feeding specialists and target shoals of small fish or clouds of zooplankton and krill in the sea. Their baleen plates are made from a material similar to human fingernails, they are strong, flexible, and feathered at the edges, rather like bristles on a brush. Huge volumes of seawater are strained through the baleen plates which sieve and retain little sea creatures in huge quantities. (WDC, 2021)
Baleen whales’ group sizes are generally small; they do not echolocate but do make a variety of sounds to communicate with each other. A large percentage of this type of whale migrates each year from the colder polar regions to the warmer oceans around the equator. The main reason for the long migration is to provide an ideal environment for their newborn whales, In colder polar oceans there is a much more abundant and diverse food supply available, but is not conducive to raising a newborn whale as it is a much more hostile environment. The solution is to stay as long as possible in these feeding areas and swim to calmer water nursery areas to give birth. Keywords – huge, filter-feeding specialists, no teeth, yearly migration
Toothed Whales are very social and live together in groups called pods, through these social interactions and their high intelligence, they teach and learn from each other, evolving as a pod as a whole. As accomplished predators, they use a special sense called echolocation (a physiological process for locating distant or invisible objects (such as prey) by means of sound waves reflected back to the emitter by the objects); to hunt and to help them ‘see’ their underwater world, allowing them to navigate below 200 meters euphotic (sunlight zone), where there is rarely any significant light detection. Keywords – Teeth, social, pods, high intelligence, echo-location.
Things to look for when identifying a whale
You can determine species by identifying these different physical aspects.
- Body Length
- Presence of dorsal fin
- Size and position of the dorsal fin
- Shape and size of flippers
- The shape of the head and general body shape
- Presence of a beak
- The shape of the blow
- Body colour and patterns
- Swimming characteristics
- Presence of teeth or baleen and number of teeth
The best time of the year to have a chance of seeing whales is early July to the end of November, Dolphins are all year round.
Table of Whales and Dolphins in Fiji.
|Image||Common Name||Scientific Name||Weight||Length||Lifespan||Info|
|Humpback Whale||Megaptera novaeangliae||Up to about 40 tons||Up to about 60 feet||About 80 to 90 years|
|Bryde's Whale||Balaenoptera edeni||About 90,000 pounds||40 to 55 feet||Unknown but sexually mature at 9 years|
|Sperm Whale||Physeter catodon||15 tons (females) to 45 tons (males)||40 feet (females) to 52 feet (males)||Up to 60 years|
|Dwarf Sperm Whale||Kogia simus||300 to 600 pounds||Up to about 9 feet||Up to 22 years|
|Short-Finned Pilot Whale||Globicephala Macroryhnchus||2,200 to 6,600 pounds||12 to 24 feet||35 to 60 years|
|Melon-Headed Whale||Peponocephala Electra||460 pounds||9 feet||45 years|
|Pigmy Killer Whale||Feresa Attenuata||Up to 496 pounds||Up to 8.5 feet||Unknown|
|Cuvier's Beaked Whale||Ziphius Cavirostris||4,000 to 6,800 pounds||15 to 23 feet||60 years|
|Beaked Whales||Mesoplodon Sp.||About 2,640 pounds||About 15 to 17 feet||Estimated at least 27 years but may be up to 48 years|
|Short Beaked Common Dolphin ||Delphinus Delphis||Average about 170 pounds (adults)||About 6 feet||About 40 years|
|Bottlenosed Dolphin||Tursiops Truncates||300 to 1,400 pounds||6 to 13 feet||40 to 60 years|
|Spinner Dolphin||Stenella Longirostris||Approx. 130 to 170 pounds||4 to 7 feet (males slightly larger than females)||20 years|
|Rough-Toothed Dolphin||Steno Bredanensis||350 pounds||8.5 feet||36 years|
Kids Corner (Materials)
Bats of Fiji
7 Fascinating Facts About Bats
- Bats are nocturnal animals, which means they are active at night.
- Bats are the only mammals that can truly fly, They have wings, which are made of skin stretched between thin finger bones.
- There are two groups of Bats – Megabats and Microbats
- The bat’s main diet consists of fruits, and insects, with the occasional beverage of nectar and a slight deviation to add some variety, including small frogs, lizards, and fish.
- The Fiji Flying Fox has been placed on the front of the 10-cent coin as part of the new fauna and flora currency collection released in 2013 by the Reserve Bank of Fiji, Post Fiji has also designed several collections of stamps to illustrate the importance and significance of Bats in Fijian Society
- Bats use to be eaten in Fiji as a fine delicacy.
- The National Trust of Fiji 2019 designated Nakanacagi Cave located on Vanua Levu, as the first Bat Sanctuary.
What is the difference between Megabats and Microbats?
Microbats – are small insect-eating bats, with a diet of flying insects caught after dark, they sometimes supplement bigger animals such as frogs, nectar, or fruit. Microbats are renowned for their very poor eyesight, they compensate for this with their extremely good hearing and a technique called echolocation. a physiological process for locating distant or invisible objects (such as prey) by means of sound waves reflected back to the emitter by the objects. Echolocation is used for orientation, obstacle avoidance, food procurement, and social interactions. (Lotha, 2021) Cave Dwellers.
Megabats (Fruits Bats) – Megabats are the more social of the two types, relaxing and grooming together during the day. Being much larger than the microbat, if you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of a few of these majestic mammals flying and gliding across the skyline, or hanging from the rooster trees waiting for the sun to descend. With their excellent eyesight and sharp sense of smell, they can travel long distances to find and feed on fruit, nectar, and pollen all across Fiji. A large flying fox that travels forty or fifty kilometers in a straight line to a tree of fruit – and then flies home. (Ramel, 2020).
Table of Observed Bat Species in Fiji.
|Common Name||Scientific Name||Group|
|Fiji Flying Fox||(Mirimiri acrodonta)||Megabats|
|Pacific Flying Fox||(Pteropus tonganus)||Megabats|
|Samoan Flying Fox||(Pteropus samoensis)||Megabats|
|Fijian Blossom Bat||(Notopteris macdonaldi)||Microbats|
|Pacific Sheath-tail Bat||(Emballonura semicaudata)||Microbats|
|Fijian Free-tailed Bat||(Tadarida bregullae)||Microbats|
Fijian Bat myths and legends
Fijian myths and legends tell us that flying foxes originated when a rat stole the wings of a heron, while another Fijian tale relates that it was the rat that first had wings while the flying foxes walked on four legs. The flying fox obtained his wings when he borrowed them from the rat and refused to return them. The rat now tries to retaliate by climbing tees and eating the flying foxes’ young, and this is why flying foxes carry their pups with them. (McCracken, 1993)
Anatomy of a Bat
G Ramel from Earthlife.org does an amazing job of describing in layman’s terms How Do Bats Fly: The Mechanics Of Flight & Lift Explained, and Bat Anatomy 101: The Various Bones o The Wing & Skeleton. They are definitely worth a read.
Distribution, status, and conservation of the bats of the Fiji Islands.
The importance and significance of Bat colonies in Fiji have steadily grown over the last 20 years, leading authorities have conducted studies across 30 different islands to access their conservation status, and understand potential threats to their habitats and future existence. Factors threatening these species are variable but include small ranges, concentration in a reduced number of colonies, deforestation, over-harvesting, and introduced predators.(Palmeirim et al., 2007). Some of the species play a keystone role as pollinators and seed dispersers invaluable forest ecosystems.(Scanlon et al., 2007).
Through these studies, several key sites were identified for the protection of the bat colonies (Map Below), combined with successful outreach and educational campaigns that have helped to stop villagers from hunting bats (historically local clans and community members hunted bats for food). The more we understand about these amazing mammals, the more we become part of nature again.
- Dedicating Fiji’s First Bat Sanctuary at 12 Awe-Inspiring National Heritage Parks In Fiji
- A world-first discovery – A study on the relationship between the Fiji blossom bat and the Fiji forest native plant, Kuluva made a world-first discovery of a new pollination system called chiropteropisteusis (bat reliant). “We discovered that the Kuluva flowers never opened on their own, and instead were being pulled off by blossom bats that were after the sugar-rich nectar inside,” says University of South Australia’s Associate Professor S. ‘Topa’ Petit. Link
The mongoose today, can be found everywhere throughout Fiji, so you are more than likely going to come across one on your travels, normally darting across the road from one sugar cane plantation to another. They are very agile and have great speed, so capturing a photo on your phone, will be a challenge.
The Mongoose can be described as having brown or gray grilled fur, ranging from 7 inches to 2 feet in length, with sleek long bodies and short legs, the feet have five toes and long claws, and tapered snouts, with a distinctive body size difference between the male and female mongoose. The small Indian mongoose has an average life span of 6 to 12 years. (Veron et al. 2009).
The Fijian Government introduced the Small Indian Mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) in the year 1883 across the two main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu (Pernetia et al. 1978), with the intention of controlling the rodents and reptiles, that were devastating the sugar-cane fields, the main economic driving force for the island nation during this time, and is still one of the major social-economic institutions today, for rural farmers.
The sugar plantation farmers instantly saw the effectiveness of the introduction of the mongoose with the rodent and snake population heavily diminished, and the sugar cane crop yield improved. The short-term results were a resounding success, however, the long-term consequences are still being measured today, as the Mongoose has few predators, and can live across many diverse environments (dry and wet conditions including forest, scrub, grassland and gardens). They multiplied rapidly, crowding out other organisms and altering their habitat surrounding native species that have evolved to defend themselves primarily from other native predators were ill-equipped to handle attacks from new, unfamiliar enemies.
The Mongoose is generally solitary and hunts small animals by the day, in addition to rodents, they prey on birds (several species of ground-dwelling birds (Pernetta and Watling 1978)), all kinds of terrestrial vertebrates as well as a wide variety of invertebrates: moths, grasshoppers, beetles, wasps, flies, and spiders (Baldwin et al. 1952, Seaman and Randall 1962, Gorman 1975,) On some islands they have had a major effect on native snakes and diurnal lizards (Case and Bolger, 1991).
There was only believed to be one specie of Mongoose in Fiji, but by happenstance, when trapping mongoose as part of an investigation into the spread of leptospirosis around Suva, six large red-colored mongooses were also captured. The body measurements (weight, length, and hind-foot size) of these red-colored mongooses were significantly larger than a random sample of the grey-colored mongoose H. javanicus normally seen. (Craig G. Morley, Patricia A. McLenachan and Peter J. Lockhart, 2007), later to be confirmed by Nature Fiji to be the Indian Brown Mongoose (common name)
Table of Mongooses in Fiji.
|Common Name||Scientific Name||Weight||Length||Lifespan|
|Indian Brown Mongoose||Urva fusca||Up to 11 pounds||Head to body length is 13-48 inches. Tail is about 7-13 inches.||6-12 Years|
|Small Indian mongoose||U auropunctata LC||Up to 11 pounds||Head to body length is 20.0–26.4 inches||6-12 Years|