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Biodiversity in New Caledonia : Land animals and flora
Cagou

Cagou

New Caledonia fauna is original and for large part endemic, although it is not as rich and singular as its flora. Similarly to its flora, its fauna is, for some species, of gondwanian origin. Indeed New Caledonia originates from the break away of a Gondwana continent part. The original fauna stock had no mammals. The only representative of mammals came flying , they are Chiropters (flying foxes and bats). Among birds, the Cagou, is the unique representative of the archaic Rhynochetides parents of the Aptornis of New-Zealand. Less than 2000 years ago, a giant non flying bird, Sylviornis neocaledoniae, was living in New Caledonia. It was probably wiped out by man.

The only indigenous mammals : Chiropters (flying foxes and bats).

Chiropters were the only mammals on the archipelago before the arrival of man and his introduction of many mammal genus and species .

The roussette is a large fruit eater flying fox. It has a 60 cm and even 80 cm, wingspan. His head is fine and pretty, similar to a fox head. When they do not fly, roussettes hang head down in trees. It is mostly a nocturnal animal, but they were often seen flying above canopy of the river forests in New Caledonia bush.

Four species are recorded.

Too much hunted, their flesh being quite appreciated, the flying foxes population has strongly diminished and it is rare nowadays to see the famous "nids de roussettes", that is a large tree were hundreds of flying foxes are hanging. They are among the threatened species on the World Conservation Monitoring Centre and l'IUCN lists (IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals ).

All the other mammals have been introduced.

Rusa deer introduced in 1862 from Philippines Islands by governor Guillain's wife. Several couples were then placed in the school farm of Yahoué. They eventually spread into the bush and multiplied swiftly having no natural predator. This deer lives in savanna and compete with cattle on its raising lands. At times its proliferation became too much. Hunted without restraint its population declined in the 1960's, but is increasing again now.

Wild pigs.

Horses, cattle and other stocks (sheep, goats). Cattle herd is about 100 000 heads strong. Goats and sheep raising is little developped.

Pets : dogs and cats.

Passengers clandestine on ships, rats and mice.

Birds

There are 20 endemic species among the 142 species recorded.

Cagou (Rhynochetus jubatus), New Caledonia emblem, living in rain forest. This bird cannot fly (as for Kiwi in New-Zealand, Emeu in Australia, Casoar in New-Guinea). It has the size of a large poultry. Extremely vulnerable as it was originally without predator, its population has dramatically declined after dogs introduction. It is an endangered species threaten of becoming extinct. Protection efforts seem however to have a positive impact and the cagou population slightly increases currently, in particular in the Rivière Bleue Park. Population was estimated as about 600 birds in the beginning of the 1990's.

Notou (Ducula goliath), is an enormous pigeon (largest tree dweller pigeon on earth) too much hunted in the past and still today, it was too placed on the IUCN red list of threatened species. It's a rain forest bird with a low pitch cry which sounds strangely under the tall trees.

The green pigeon "pigeon vert" (Drepanoptila holosericea) and the "colliers blancs" (Columba vitiensis hyponochroa) are living too in the rain forest.

perrucheParakeets :" perruche d'Ouvéa" or Uvea parakeet (Eunymphicus cornutus uveaensis), also called "cocotte", is classified as Critically Endangered. The wild population is very small, only a few couples are still living. The Uvea parakeet has been, and continue to be, affected by trade and may completely become extinct in the wild. The" Lori à diadème" or "Loriquet" of New Caledonia (Charmosyna diadema) is also on the IUCN red list of theatened species. Other parakeets are the "perruche à front rouge" (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae).

The "cardinal" (Erytrhrura psittacea) is also theatened and unfortunatly, as for the Uvea parakeet, affected by trade.

The peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and the endemic sparrowhawk Acciper haplochrous named locally "émouchet".

Among the introduced species the Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis). Mynahas are named locally "merle des Moluques" or "pattes jaunes" (yellow legs). It is a bird which thrives alongside humans.

Reptiles

A small boa, Candoia bibroni, was introduced in the Loyalty Islands. The other snakes are sea snakes and among them the famous "tricots rayés" or banded sea kraits (laticaudinae) which come on land to sleep on the shore rocks and lay eggs. This snake as well as other marine species has a very powerful and deadly venom (sea kraits are said to have venom ten times as strong as rattlesnake venom) but they are fortunately quite passive and do not normally indulge in biting human beings.

There are 67 species of lizards and geckos including 59 endemic ones (source : Endemia ) They are not dangerous. Rhacodactylus leachianus is a giant endemic gecko which can reach a length of 40 cm.

Fish and crustaceans in rivers and lakes

There are about 80 fish species in New Caledonia rivers and lakes. Most are indigenous and some endemic fishes occur only in limited territories (Plaine des lacs). In creeks the dominant fish is called "carp" (but actually it is a different species, Kuhlia). There are also many species of eels. Galaxias neocaledonicus is a small endemic fish living in the lakes and rivers of the South (Plaine des lacs). It's a very ancient species unfortunatly becoming extinct following the introduction of Black Bass in its ecosystem.

Black bass was introduced in the Yaté dam lake. It is a threat for local species when introduced in their ecosystem.

In brackish waters of estuaries and mangroves, tilapias and "poissons millions" have reduced to a considerable extent mosquitos populations, in particular in the Diahot valley. They are introduced species and it is a rare case where introduction had positive effects.

The creeks shrimp (Macrobrachium) is found in most streams and rivers. It is a delicacy. This shrimp could be threatened by the recent introduction of freshwater crayfish ("yabbies") from Australia. In estuaries there is also a small and delicious shrimp which is abundant at some seasons

Insects

papillon521 species of Lepidopter have been named in New Caledonia, with 197 endemic species (38%). For aesthetics we mention the superb endemic butterfly Montrouzier (Papilio montrouzieri Boisduval, 1859 - source information and image: IRD New Caledonia-Exemples de biodiversité en New Caledonia).

Among flies, are the "mouche à bétail" (Hippobosca equina) flat and elastic and the so called locally "mouche à requins" (shark fly), a large sting fly or horse fly, living often near beaches and liking the skins of people sunbaking on it.

Mosquitos can be in extremely dense clouds on the West Coast mangroves, in estuaries and in most wet lands. There is no anopheles and there is no malaria in New Caledonia.

Yellow wasps are frequent in the savanna mostly in its driest parts, but also in town. They are aggressive when close to their nest. The red wasps (Eumenes germaini) built remarkable clay nest locally called "gargoulettes" in houses various corners. They may sting but are not aggressive.

Cockroaches with two kinds, big ones (periplaneta) and small ones (Blatella germanica), thrive in not too clean kitchens.

There are several species of termites. They bore wooden parts of houses and furniture. They can even get through foundations of poor quality concrete.

A recent and catastrophic introduction is the "électric" ant. This minute ant stings with such a burning sensation that it has almost barred access to coffee growing lands. It has then a sizable responsibility in the collapse of the local coffee production.

Beautiful spiders with a yellow belly built large and extremely solid yellow webs in the savanna. They are rather big but not dangerous. There is also a little redback in high rain forests but it does not seem to have stung dangerously anyone.

Scorpions are small, well hidden and almost harmless. The centipede (scolopendra), is much more unpleasant. Its sting is painful and even dangerous. It hides in humid places particularly in rotting wood. Millipedes, which should not be confused with centipedes, are not poisonous but may produce some irritation when in contact with skin.

Molluscs

The locally named bulime or Isle of Pines snail, is a large gastropod with a conic shell. There are 19 bulime species. Some are extinct. They are unfortunately threatened species since Achatina fulica was introduced. It proliferates a lot and this can be catastrophic to the indigeneous gastropods.

Consulted documents : IRD et Bertrand Richier de Forges, Tanguy Jaffre et Jean Chazeau : La Nouvelle-Calédonie, vestige du continent de Gondwana. To visit : Endemia : Promotion de la bio-diversité Néo-Calédonienne

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