Endangered Pacific Sheath-tailed bats found on remote island in Fiji

Endangered Pacific Sheath-tailed bats found on remote island in Fiji

“And this was where we said ‘this is a really important moment for this bat’.”

In 2019, experts feared the population of the Pacific Sheath-tailed bat had dwindled to just a few hundred. It previously lived in caves on Fiji as well as Samoa, Guam, Micronesia, Palau, Vanuatu and Tonga, but sightings have been rare.

“Even with this discovery, this bat is still considered endangered, but here’s a little stronghold,” Helgen said.

He said that if the bat, which has “smooth chocolatey fur”, “pig-nose” but is still “quite cute” became extinct, it would have a huge environmental cost because of its role in the food chain.

“This a really tiny animal, each one of them weighs about five to seven grams,” he said.

“But even though it’s quite tiny, this is the main insect-eater that comes out at night in the whole Pacific, or at least once it was, before it declined in so many places.

Vanua Balavu is home to the Pacific Sheath-tailed bat, which is listed as endangered.

“These things are eating the equivalent of hundreds or thousands of mosquito-like insects every night.”

Mere Lakeba, director of Conservation International’s Fiji Program blamed land clearing to plant crops for the bat’s decline.

“It’s an island which has people that has social needs, it has food security needs,” Lakeba said.

She said her job was to find a balance between the needs of the local people and the ecosystems. But she said the bats were the perfect protector for local farmers.


“They are ecosystem superheroes …. they act as natural pest controllers, they reduce the need for us to continue to use pesticides.”

She said it meant there could be more caves full of bats across the region. About 17 of the Lau islands are inhabited by a population of about 10,000, while Vanua Balavu has a population of about 1500 people.