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Oceania

Fighting back against invaders: notes on Fiji

Bill Nagle and Alejandra Torres,
Pacific Invasives Initiative.

Rat and mongoose, myna and bulbul, wedelia and mikania, ant and mosquito are some of the invasive mammals, birds, plants and insects that are affecting biodiversity on the islands of Fiji. Endangered birds such as the red-throated lorikeet and the long-legged warbler have been attacked by rat and mongoose predators. Invasive species can also affect marine and aquatic life. Ballast water carried in ships can introduce invasive fish, invertebrates, algae and plants.

Invasive species are exotic species that establish easily, grow quickly, and spread rapidly. They cause problems for the native species of Fiji and often affect people’s wellbeing as well. Invasives are commonly introduced by people, often deliberately, for food or decoration, or carelessly, in imported goods such as car tyres and packing crates. They can be spread by people carrying plants, food and other goods from place to place.

The Global Invasive Species Database (GISD) run by the Invasive Species Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union lists 109 invasive species established in Fiji. The Fiji Department of the Environment recognised invasive species as a focal area for action in the 1999 Fiji Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan.

The Pacific Invasives Initiative (PII) is an organisation whose goal is to contribute to the conservation of island biodiversity and the sustainability of livelihoods of the Pacific people by minimising the spread and impacts of invasive species within the Pacific Region.

PII works with agencies in Fiji and other Pacific Island Countries and Territories that are planning or implementing invasive species management projects. PII provides these agencies with technical support and advice, specialist assistance and peer review of documents and assists with project planning.

PII also facilitates training opportunities and cross-country skill sharing experiences and provides information on invasive species and their management.

Some of PII’s successes include providing support to Birdlife International’s Fiji programme with rat eradications on Vatu-i-Ra and Mabulau. Vatu-i-Ra has been declared rat-free and monitoring has already shown increased numbers of birds and lizards and regeneration of native plants is occurring.

PII also supported The University of the South Pacific in an invasive mammal (rat, cat, dog) eradication on Viwa Island. The rats returned, but the people of Viwa experienced many ‘rat-free’ months and reported less disease, more crops and less food lost to rats.

Successful actions can be taken against invasives species. Prevention, eradication and control are management strategies that reduce the threat of invasives. The Pacific Invasives Initiative can assist agencies with invasive species management projects (www.issg.org/cii/PII).

(The Pacific Invasives Initiative is based at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and currently receives funding from the New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID), The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.)

jungle myna

An invasive bird (jungle myna) on an invasive
plant (leucaena) near Sigatoka, Fiji
Photo: Bill Nagle