Almost every island located on the rain-shadow region of the Fiji group is home to the Tropical Dry Forest. The Yasawas and Mamanuca group do fall within this region and over the years, the vegetation on these islands have suffered extensive alteration, primarily through fire, clearance and cultivation, and secondarily through cyclones and the spread of invasive alien tree species.
The Tropical Dry Forest ecosystems are now classified as one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. Today Malolo Island only retains a mere remnant of its original vegetation. However, behind Likuliku’s beach, is the largest remaining area of Dry forest on Malolo.
Some common Dry Forest species which have evolved over time for adaptation include; Stinkwood (Gyrocarpus americanus), Coral Tree (Erythrina variegate), Chinese Lantern Tree (Hernandia peltata), Beach Gardenia (Cordia subcordata), Milo (Thespesia populnea) , Moluccan Ironwood (Intsia bijuga), Wild Sandalwood (Vavaea amicorum), Indian Beech Tree (Pongamia pinnata), Beach Trumpet (Guettarda speciosa), Ebony Tree (Diospyros spp.), Cibicibi (Cynometra insularis), Yaqata (Mallotus tiliifolius), Kou (Cordia subcordata), Nokonisavu (Psydrax odorata), Moivi (Kingiodendron platycarpum), Beach Almond (Terminalia catappa). A variety of mango tree species can also be found at the base of the hill slopes on the southern side of the Resort.
Four “character” trees have also been identified – a magnificent, large Banyan tree locally called Baka at a dry forest site, two Beach Almond trees believed to be more than 100 years old located at the Coconut grove track and a large Borneo Mahogany tree or locally called Dilo, which stands on the beach outside Bure#44. All four are major landmarks. All are considered majestic trees and a remnant of the former forest on the island. These trees are keystone species which plays a major role within the Dry Forest ecological processes and by retaining these trees, we have assisted in the future rehabilitation of original habitats.
As part of Ahura Resorts environmental program, we have a Tropical Dry Forest Restoration Program in place in conjunction with Fiji’s Department of Forestry and the South Pacific Regional Herbarium at University of the South Pacific.
There are also two stands of healthy mangrove at the resort, a single offshore stand at the northern end of the beach, and a larger formation along the internal watercourse which flows through the island which has been designated a Preservation Area.
There is one significant Malolo Island native still surviving – the Fiji Crested Iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis). This species is on the endangered list (ICUN 2006). They are the Panda Bears of Fiji in terms of their level of being critically endangered.
In 2011 three juvenile iguanas were discovered on the resort. This has caused great excitement locally and internationally and we now work closely with the Local Government agencies, specialists from Taronga Zoo in Sydney Australia and San Diego Zoo in the USA. In the last five years, we have found many more iguanas to add to the family and as a result, we now have a Captive Breeding Facility that hosts four pairs. This facility is fully endorsed by the Fiji Government.
There are several reasons that attribute to the drastic diminishing number of Fiji Crested Iguanas. The main factor is the loss of their natural habitat which is the Tropical Dry Forest, and the introduction of cats and goats to the islands. You can read about our latest Iguana program on our News page.
As part of the Ahura Resorts environmental program we have a Permit to catch and protect Iguanas found on the lease area. We work closely with our partners to protect the Iguanas with the ultimate aim of setting up our own breeding and release program. (see Ahura Resorts Environmental Policy).
Other wildlife endemic to Fiji and mostly confined to the Dry Forest ecosystem include the Fijian Free-trailed Bat and the Pacific Boa.
In all, there are about 80 species of terrestrial and freshwater birds in Fiji of which about 10 have been introduced. A few bird species have been observed on Malolo Island and around Likuliku Lagoon Resort next door, as follows:
Source: ‘Birds of Fiji & Western Polynesia”, Dick Watling 2001
There are three species of hawk or ‘Bird of Prey’ in Fiji. The most common is the Pacific Harrier, seen on Malolo Island, and also most commonly seen over grasslands, swamps and wooded areas. It feeds on rodents, birds and occasionally snakes. The Fiji Goshawk and the Peregrine Falcon, can be sometimes seen on Malolo hovering above the coast to inland areas, preying on lizards, insects and other birds.
There are several varieties of dove in Fiji. Seen on Malolo Island and the most common, is the introduced Spotted-neck Dove. Another Malolo resident is the White-collared Kingfisher – it is striking blue with a white collar around the neck and is often seen ‘dive bombing’ water areas like pools and lagoons to fish and eat. Much less exotic is the Indian or House Mynah which was introduced in the late 19th century to feed on sugar cane pests. Aggressive, intelligent and noisy, it can be seen throughout Fiji and on Malolo Island.
It is sad that with the massive reduction of the Dry Forest eco system, the Whistling Tree Duck and the Grass Owl are now extinct.