The islands of western Fiji are home to the dry forest. Over the years, the vegetation of the Yasawa and Mamanuca groups of islands has suffered extensive alteration, primarily through fire, clearance and cultivation, and secondarily through cyclones and the spread of invasive alien species.
Dry forest eco systems are now classified as one of the most endangered eco systems in the world. Today Malolo Island only retains a mere remnant of its original vegetation. However, over the hill behind Malolo Resort, is the largest remaining area of Dry forest on the island.
There are some fine native trees remaining on the island including Stinkwood wiriwiriGyrocarpusamericanus, Coral Tree drala Erythrinavariegate, Chinese Lantern Tree evuevu Hernandiapeltata, buabua Guettardaspeciosa, Milo mulomulo Thespesiapopulnea, Ironwood vesi Intsiabijuga, tarawauni kaka Dracontomelonvitiense, Beach Almond tavola Terminaliacatappa, Beach Laurel or Beauty Leaf dilo Calophylluminophyllum, Fish-poison Tree vutu Barringtoniaasiatica, Pisoniagrandis and bau Planchonella/Burkella.
Two “character” trees have also been identified at our sister resort next door to Malolo – a magnificent, large baka or Fig Tree at the back of the forest area and a large Dilo which stands on Likuliku’s beach. Both are major landmarks. The baka is truly a majestic tree and a remnant of the former forest on the island. Such figs are keystone species with respect to forest ecological processes by retaining this tree, we have assisted in the future rehabilitation of original habitats.
The Dilo is a fine, old tree which has survived many cyclones over the years and fires and is a beautiful remnant of the former forest.
As part of Ahura Resorts environmental program, we have a Dry Forest Regeneration Program in place in conjunction with the Ministry of Forestry and other local authorities.
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 or Brachylophus Vitiensis. This species is on the endangered critical 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. This has caused great excitement locally and internationally and we now work closely with the Local Government agencies as well as Fiji Iguana specialist Kula Park in Fiji and specialists from Taronga Zoo in Sydney Australia and San Diego Zoo in the USA. In the last two years, we have found three more Iguanas to add to the family and also now have a breeding pair.
Several reasons can be attributed to the drastic diminishing number of Fiji Crested Iguanas. The main one is the loss of their natural environment ie Dry Forest, and the introduction of cats and goats to the islands.
As part of the Ahura Resorts environmental program we have a Permit to catch and protect Iguanas found on the lease area and these are kept in a sanctuary at our sister resort – Likuliku Lagoon Resort. 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 animals native to Fiji and the Dry Forest eco system that are on the endangered critical list are the Bolo snake and Pacific boas.
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 as follows:
Source: ‘Birds of Fiji & Western Polynesia”, Dick Watling 2001
There are three species of hawk 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, also seen on Malolo, ranges from the coast to inland areas and preys 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.