November 2003. A BirdLife Conference in Suva in 2003 reported that cave-dwelling bats have disappeared in both Fiji and Samoa. However, this was disputed by people in those countries. In Fiji, the Wildlife Conservation Society reported this year (2003) that small bats are declining, but they are not included in the list of highest priority for conservation action – unlike the concern for the fruit bats, which are the cornerstone species for pollination, seed dispersal and forest regeneration.
The Institute of Applied Sciences, University of the South Pacific, has been very much involved in Fiji bat surveys for the past 8 year, and have conducted explopratory visits to caves on Vitilevu, South Yasawa and Taveuni in around 1999 and 2000. It would be premature to conclude that cave bats have disappeared from these areas.
Of particular concern, as mentioned by SPREP, is the sheath-tailed bat in Fiji. Whether it is still present, and if it is, whether it is still undergoing “continued significant and unexplained decline”. There is need for a survey and for research on those species of concern as a matter of priority. It was thought by SPREP that this species is one of those that suffers from being distributed across many countries. A decline in numbers in many places at once can sometimes take longer to pick up as a serious issue.