FIJI

Strategic Cave Purchase for the Fijian Free-tailed Bat

Project Cost: $249,092

Funding Raised: $249,092

$4528.95 per acre (1 acre = 43,560 sq ft)

100% of your donation goes towards Conservation Action.

X The Impact

Thanks to generous support from our donors and the collaboration of Bat Conservation International, we have successfully reached our fundraising goal for this project.

The only native terrestrial mammals found on the remote Fiji Islands in the western Pacific Ocean are six species of bats – five of which are threatened with extinction. The Nakanacagi Cave is the only known maternity colony of the Fijian Free-tailed Bat, and it is the only known roost in all of Fiji. In fact, this single roost appears to represent over 95 percent of the species’ global population.

While it is clear that the cave is an important lifeline to the survival of the Fijian Free-tailed Bat, unfortunately it remains unprotected and at grave risk from habitat disturbance in and around the cave.

To ensure the future survival of the species and this vital breeding and roosting site, Rainforest Trust is working with National Trust of Fiji with the support of Bat Conservation International to purchase the properties where the cave system is located and its surrounding habitat to create Nakanacagi Cave Reserve.

Fast Facts

Location
Vanua Levu Island, Fiji

Size
55 Acres

Key Species (Based on IUCN Red List)
Fijian Free-tailed Bat (EN)

Habitat
Tropical dry forest, volcanic cave system

Threats
Hunting, deforestation, erosion

Action
Establish the Nakanacagi Cave Reserve

Local Partner
National Trust of Fiji

Financial Need
$249,092

Price per Acre
$4,528.95

Biodiversity

The Endangered Fijian Free-tail Bat relies on Nakanacagi Cave as its only known maternity colony worldwide.

The only other location where the bat has been recorded is in the south Pacific nation of Vanuatu. However, bat experts suspect the free-tail bats of Fiji might be a distinct species from those of Vanuatu due to their geographic isolation. Initial biodiversity assessments recorded at least 20 endemic plants in the proposed protected area. As the cave system is somewhat geographically removed from other caves in Fiji, there is a strong possibility of the presence of additional rare and endemic cave biodiversity.

Challenges

Historically, local clans and community members hunted the bats for food.

However, over the past decade, successful outreach and education campaigns have convinced the Naua Clan members of Nakanacagi Village to stop hunting the bats – though without formal protection of the cave, these activities could resume. While successful outreach activities have curbed hunting for now, the Nakanacagi Cave and its surroundings are privately owned so there is a risk that the area could be sold for development and logging. The cave is also at risk from extensive erosion following deforestation. Past logging and burning has weakened the native forest and has made it susceptible to damage from extreme winds that accompany tropical cyclones.

Communities

There are no settlements within the proposed protected area. The indigenous Naua Clan resides in Nakanacagi Village, which is located approximately 1.8 miles away from Nakanacagi Cave.

This clan is the traditional custodian of the cave and the area surrounding it. Before the community outreach initiatives, the Fijian free-tailed Bat was considered to be a delicacy to them. The nearby Fijian-Indian community consists of prominent members of the Matasawalevu Cooperative, which was established in the 1970s to utilize the larger Matasawalevu area for cocoa cultivation. The cooperative has confirmed their willingness to sell the property that includes part of the Nakanacagi Cave system. It is vital for the broader community to understand the importance of conserving regional biodiversity, and Rainforest Trust’s local partner is working to engage these communities as supportive neighbors to the protected area.

Solutions

Rainforest Trust is working with National Trust of Fiji with the support of Bat Conservation International to secure the cave and its surrounding habitat by purchasing properties and and creating the 55-acre Nakanacagi Cave Reserve.

One private landowner has already committed to donate a parcel that contains part of the cave, and another owner has agreed to sell the property that includes the other portion of the cave system. After more than two years of dedicated negotiations, National Trust of Fiji team is poised to purchase and officially designate Nakanacagi Cave Reserve. Over the next five years, the reserve will be formally delineated in accordance with Fiji Forestry Department’s Reserve Demarcation Policy, and boundary signs will be placed on trees and posts to clearly mark the reserve. A management plan will be developed with all key stakeholders to ensure their understanding of and commitment to the protected area. A local team of conservation rangers will ensure effective conservation and management of Nakanacagi Cave Reserve to safeguard Fijian Free-tailed Bats.