Rich in flora and fauna, Fiji includes over 300 islands in the south Pacific, with ecosystems similar to Indonesia and Malaysia. Tropical rainforest and mangrove swamps cover the eastern half of most of the islands, with dry grasslands in the west. The majority of plant and animal species in Fiji were introduced by human settlers about 3,500 years ago, though a few endemic species survive. Fiji is also home to many endangered species, and unknown species continue to be discovered.
Mangrove forests dominate the eastern coastlines. Mangrove trees grow in saline water and form swamp environments. Tropical hardwoods dominate the rainforests of the interior, including the endangered mahogany. Coconut palms, bamboo and tropical fruit trees such as Fijian longan, or “dawa” as it's called locally, also abound.
A diverse 3,000 species of flora cover Fiji, one-third of which are endemic. This includes hundreds of species of ferns and orchids. Hibiscus flowers, including the mangrove hibiscus, are a key element in the endangered crested iguana's diet. The national flower of Fiji is the tagimaucia, a woody vine with blossoms of white, purple and deep red coloring.
Few wild mammals inhabit the Fijian islands, due to their isolation from large land masses. The flying fox fruit bat, an endangered species discovered on the island of Taveuni in 1977, is Fiji's sole endemic mammal. The Indian mongoose was introduced to Fiji in 1883 to control rats and snakes, and has since thrived and threatened the populations of many native species. Most Fijian mammals are domesticated cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, dogs and horses.
Reptiles & Amphibians
Fiji is rich in reptilian life, including several species of snakes, geckos and iguanas. The banded iguana and the crested iguana are both endemic and endangered. The banded sea krait is a black and white striped poisonous snake that swims off the coastline and among the coral reefs. Pacific boa constrictors inhabit the forests, along with the endemic dark brown Fiji ground frog.
About a quarter of Fiji's 100 bird species exist only in Fiji. Fijian birds include Taveuni doves, barking pigeons, golden and orange doves, Kadavu shining parrots, Fiji warblers, red musk parrots, sulphur parrots, kingfishers and peregrine falcons. Many of these display bright oranges, greens, blues and reds.
Fiji is surrounded by coral reefs featuring both soft and hard corals, such as gorgonian fans and crinoids. Reef sharks, barracudas, garden eels, hairy ghost pipe-fish, scorpionfish, lionfish, and dramatic yellow and black Fiji slugs are just a few of the marine species that inhabit the reefs. Fiji is also home to four sea turtles: hawksbills, leatherbacks, greens and loggerheads.