Natural threats to and conservation of Fiji birds

Natural forests of varying quality today cover c.44% of the land area of Fiji with a further 7% covered by softwood and hardwood plantations (D. Watling in litt. 1995). On most islands nearly all accessible forest has either been logged or is committed to logging concessions (A. Lees in litt. 1993), and Taveuni is the only island with extensive relatively undisturbed forest.Natural forests trails in Kadavu

The loss of native forest will have undoubtedly affected populations of the restricted-range species and several are classified as threatened or Near Threatened. An example is Lamprolia victoriae, which, although still common in forest on Taveuni (nominatevictoriae), is very rare on Vanua Levu (race kleinschmidti) where it is restricted to the already heavily logged and unprotected Natewa peninsula. The survival of the majority, if not all, of the restricted-range species will depend on the existence of areas of native forest large enough and sufficiently well distributed to negate the localized destruction caused by regular cyclones (D. Watling in litt. 1993).

It is likely that predation by introduced mammals (rats, cats and mongooses Herpestes auropunctatus) caused the demise of Nesoclopeus poecilopterus, which is believed to have been flightless (excepting an unconfirmed 1973 record, the species is not known from the twentieth century and is thought extinct).

Predation by feral cats is also a potential threat to Pterodroma macgillivrayi, which is classified as Critical, and to the threatened (Vulnerable) migratory Bristle-thighed Curlew Numenius tahitiensis, a restricted range species which winters in this EBA and undergoes a flightless moult.

Habitat does remain for Trichocichla rufaErythrura kleinschmidtiand Charmosyna amabilis, and the cause of their apparent scarcity in it is unclear, although predation may be a contributory factor. However, few observers have sought these species, and the true status of T. rufa, which is very skulking with an undescribed song, is more likely to be Data Deficient (D. T. Holyoak in litt. 1996).

The threatened status of Mayrornis versicolor reflects its tiny range in the Lau archipelago, for it will always remain susceptible to chance catastrophes-though there are no indications that it, or the forests, have been greatly affected by recent cyclones (Watling 1988a).

The state of the environment of Fiji is described in Watling and Chape (1992), which includes a preliminary register of 140 ‘natural’ sites of national significance. At present there are a few small, forested protected areas in this EBA and there are also designated watershed ‘protection forests’ (about a third of the remaining forest area), but these latter have no legal status and are not inviolate from logging (Watling 1988b), so may not have great conservation value.

A representative national parks and reserves system for Fiji’s tropical forests is proposed in Lees (1989) and includes a reserve on Vanua Levu (specifically for Lamprolia victoriae) and one on Viti Levu (the Sovi basin) which would protect Fiji’s largest remaining area of undisturbed lowland forest (see Cabaniuk et al. 1995).

There is a commitment within Fiji to establish protected areas, and attention is now being focused on the best way of achieving their conservation within the framework of customary land ownership (A. Lees in litt. 1993, 1996).

Citation:

BirdLife International 2003
BirdLife’s online World Bird Database: the site for bird conservation. 
Version 2.0. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International.
Available: http://www.birdlife.org

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