Pteropus tonganus Quoy & Gaimard

Tongan Fruit-Bat (Pteropus tonganus)

The Tongan Fruit-Bat occurs with several subspecies in an area that stretches from New Guinea to the Cook Islands in Central Polynesia, whereby the form, that can be found in Polynesia, represents the nominate race.

These animals reach a wing span of more than one metre and spend the day more or less sleeping in roosting trees, where they sometimes form giant colonies.

In most parts of its geographic range the species is an important source of protein and is therefore heavily hunted, but also because the Fruit-Bats, being frugivores, can cause enormous damages in fruiting trees. Hence the species has become rare in some parts of its geographic range, in others it has even disappeared completely.

In the Kingdom of Tonga in contrast Tongan Fruit-Bats are considered as property of the royal family and therefore are protected from hunting – a very effective protection.

On the Cook Islands, the eastern most edge of its distribution area, the Tongan Fruit-Bat is called moa kirikiri, which means ‘leather chicken’. On the Fijian Islands it is called beka, bekua (in the west part of Viti Levu), beka dina or doli (on Kadavu).

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References:

[1] Jorge M. Palmeirim; Alan Champion; Alivereti Naikatini, Jone Niukula; Marika Tuiwawa; Martin Fisher; Mere Yabaki-Gounder; Sólveig Thorsteinsdóttir; Stanley Qalovaki; Thomas Dunn: Distribution, Status, and Conservation of Bats in the Fiji Islands. Oryx 41(4): 509-519. 2006

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Photo: Dr. Paddy Ryan; by courtesy of Dr. Paddy Ryan

http://www.ryanphotographic.com

Pteropus coxi Helgen, Helgen, & Wilson

Cox’s Flying Fox (Pteropus coxi)

This fascinating species was described in the year 2009 from two skulls, which originate from two specimens, which had been shot during the ‘U.S. Exploring Expedition’ in the years 1838 to 1842 in Samoa.

The remaining bones and the skins of these two individuals are now unfortunately unlocatable. [2]

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The Large Samoa Flying Fox has obviously survived into the 1980th years, as can be extracted from an eyewitness account of the Ethnobotanist Dr. Paul Alan Cox.:

I will never forget the first time I saw one of these giant bats in the rainforest. One day, while climbing a tree, I saw what appeared to be an eagle flying away from a liana flower. The bat I saw in my field glasses appeared to have a wingspan of five feet [1,5 m] or more and lacked the white fur on the back of the neck that characterizes the locally common flying fox, P. tonganus. This large bat was black and its behavior was completely unusual. I later thoroughly enjoyed watching them soar, eagle-like, high above the forest in midday sun.” [1]

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The natives of the Samoan Islands have always hunted flying foxes for food purposes, and they still do so today.

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References:

[1] Paul A. Cox: Flying Fox nearly extinct in Samoa. Bats Magazine 1(4). 1984
[2] Kristofer M. Helgen; Lauren E. Helgen; Don E. Wilson: Pacific flying foxes (Mammalia: Chiroptera): Two new species of Pteropus from Samoa, probably extinct. American Museum Novitates 3646: 1-37. 2009

Mirimiri acrodonta (Hill & Beckon)

Fijian Monkey-faced Bat (Mirimiri acrodonta)

The Fijian Monkey-faced Bat was described as recently as 1978.

This Flying Fox is about 20 cm long and has a wingspan of up to 70 cm, it is nocturnal and feeds mainly on fruits.

This species is up to now known to occur exclusively in the wet montane forest (at an elevation of about 1000 m) on the island of Taveuni. It is possible, that it may also occur on the adjacent island of Vanua Levu, but this is, however, still unresolved so far.

Unfortunately the Fijian Monkey-faced Bat is considered critically endangered, the reasons for this are found mainly in the destruction of its habitat.

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References:

[1] Kristofer M. Helgen: Systematics of the Pacific monkey-faced bats (Chiroptera : Pteropodidae), with a new species of Pteraloplex and a new Fijian genus. Systematics and Biodiversity 3(4): 433-453. 2005
[2] Jorge M. Palmeirim; Alan Champion; Alivereti Naikatini, Jone Niukula; Marika Tuiwawa; Martin Fisher; Mere Yabaki-Gounder; Sólveig Thorsteinsdóttir; Stanley Qalovaki; Thomas Dunn: Distribution, Status, and Conservation of Bats in the Fiji Islands. Oryx 41(4): 509-519. 2006

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mirimiri-acrodonta-wnb

Photo: William N. Beckon

(under creative commons license (3.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0