Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Animals in Tonga

Without question, the most prevalent animal to be found in Tonga is the pig.  There are pigs EVERYWHERE.   They simply wander about, in the streets, in people's yards, along the beaches at low tide.  During our first trip to Tonga I posted a different pig picture each day on Facebook.  I didn't do that this time around, but it was not for lack of opportunity.


When I asked who certain pigs belonged to, I was told "everyone".   It did seem that some pigs were specific to particular yards so I think there was specific "ownership" of the pigs....maybe the explanation I had been given was based on the fact that everyone has pigs.  I'm not sure.  Sometimes the differences in our language made understanding each other a bit of a challenge.

Other animals we saw included cows, horses, sheep and goats.





A major business in Vava'u is Whale watching.

Photo Credit: Jason's.com

Perhaps one of the most interesting animal in Tonga is the fruit bat, known locally as "flying foxes".  According to Gilbert Grant, a visiting professor of biology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, in the summer of 1996 he counted "seven major roosts with a total of nearly 3,600 bats. These numbers do not include the many nursing babies I saw, nor the bats hidden in the dense foliage of mango and strangler fig trees, where it was impossible to see them well enough to count them" on Tongatapu.  When looking further among some of the outer islands he found even more:  "At the end of the day, we had seen nearly 6,000 bats in 25 roosts on 13 islands. Unfortunately, bad weather and time constraints prevented us from visiting all the islands with reported bat populations."

Photo Credit: Virtual Tonga
The first time we saw these flying we thought they were huge birds.  They had a wing span of two to two and a half feet.   Larry saw quite a few of them and we were driving in the evenings.   I have lousy night vision so I would often miss them, but I did get to see some going from tree to three.

I asked people in the islands if they had eaten bat, and I was told by several people they had.  However, what I see online reports that they are protected, considered property of the King and cannot be hunted.   Not sure what the actual story on all that is.

There was only one animal that I saw that was not welcome - and that was just because it crawled across me in my bed.   I'm really not scared of lizards when I see them scurry up a wall or sunning themselves in a windowsill.  But having one scramble across my arm as I was relaxing to go to sleep sort of freaked me out.  I screamed like a little girl.   Such is life in the tropics.

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