Tetepare's Flora and Fauna
A total of 76 bird species, 25 reptile, 6 frog and 13 mammal species have been recorded on Tetepare including several rare and endemic bird and bat species (Read and Moseby 2006). A dazzling variety of plants and animals make their home in Tetepare's 120 square kilometres of primary lowland rainforest – some of the last of its kind in the Melanesia. And scientists are still discovering new species on Tetepare. In recent years, researchers discovered three new species of fish, one new fish genera and one potential new fish family in the freshwater rivers that wind through the forest, beneath the towering canopies of Tetepare’s banyan trees.
Three years ago, scientists documented 33 taxa of butterflies on Tetepare. A detailed bat survey by David Gee indicated there are likely to be as many as 18 different bat species on Tetepare and a population of possibly undescribed horseshoe bats. Nearly every visitor to Tetepare will see and hear the beautiful Tetepare white-eye, a little bird found nowhere else in the world.
Megapodes scratch and dig through the leaf little on the forest floor, while cuscus (Phalanger orientalis), and the enormous prehensile-tailed skink (Corucia zebrata) forage in the canopies above. Large populations of rare coconut crabs - the world's largest land-dwelling crustacean - make their home in the forest fringing the sea.
Underwater, Tetepare is no less remarkable. Three species of marine turtles, including the critically endangered leatherback and hawksbill and the endangered green, nest on Tetepare’s volcanic black sand beaches.
Sharks, crocodiles and a spectacular diversity of colourful fish species make the island’s reefs their home. And luxuriant seagrass meadows in the island’s sheltered lagoons provide a nursery for juvenile fish and food for resident dugongs.
The coral reefs of the region support one of the highest diversities of fish and coral in the world, second only to Raja Ampat in Indonesia. Green snail populations can still be found on Tetepare though they have disappeared from most of the Solomons.
Saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) are found in low numbers in Tetepare’s fresh water lakes and river mouths, and are infrequently seen swimming in coastal waters.
Dugongs (Dugon dugong) and several species of dolphins are frequently seen in the coastal water surrounding Tetepare. Dugong, either singly or in small groups frequently enter the shallow lagoon areas to feed on sea grass, and numerous sightings have been made of mother and calf pairs. Dugongs can live up to 70 years and a threat to their survival is siltation of sea grass beds by logging and mining.
DETAILED FAUNA INFORMATION
Six species of frogs have been recorded on Tetepare, including the Solomons eyelashed frog (Ceratobatrachus guentheri), Solomon Wrinkled Ground Frog (Platymantis solomonis), Solomon Islands Giant Treefrog (P. guppyi), Weber’s Wrinkled Ground Frog (P. weberi), Treasury Island Treefrog (Litoria thesaurensis), and Elegant Sticky–Toed Frog (Batrachylodes elegans) (Read and Moseby, 2006; Pikacha et al., 2008). Both Platymantis solomonis, and P. weberi are endemic to the Solomon Islands and are also found in lowland rainforests throughout the neighbouring islands of New Georgia. The most abundant frogs are the Platymantis ground frogs. The enormous water frogs, Discodeles guppyi, are common in the river systems and upper watersheds, their abundance encouraged by the absence of invasive cane toads (Bufo marinus) on the island. The Solomons’ largest tree frog, Platymantis guppyi, is abundant in Tetepare’s lowland forests, preferring palm forests with understories dominated by Alpinia pupurata and Heliconia species, and preferring areas of dense vegetation to that of a more open abandoned coconut plantation.
Reptiles are also abundant on Tetepare, and 25 species have been recorded (Read and Moseby 2006). Skinks make up more than a quarter of all reptiles, including six Emoia species with E. schmidti being the most abundant. E. schmidti is also a common species through the New Georgian Islands. The widespread Pacific goanna Varanus indicus is the largest terrestrial lizard on the island, with the Solomon Islands’ prehensile tail skink Corucia zebrata being the largest arboreal skink in the world. The latter is endemic to the Solomon Islands and is distributed from Makira in the east to Bougainville in the west. On some islands, such as Guadalcanal, populations of C. zebrata are comparatively low, owing to uncontrolled collection in the 1990s for the overseas pet trade. Consequently, protection of this skink on Tetepare is significant for the country. Also found on the island is the green-blooded skink, Prasinohaema virens, which is a forest dweller and has green blood, unlike most skinks, which have red blood (McCoy, 2006).
Green turtles (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), and Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) nest frequently on the Qeuru, Tofa, Tirokofi, and Keife beaches of Tetepare’s coast. The Leatherback turtles generally nest between November and January and are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN redlist (Sarti Martinez, 2000; Read and Moseby, 2006).
There are at least 81 species of birds on Tetepare, ranging from kingfishers to pigeons and fruit doves, goshawks, frigate birds, parrots, cuckoos, swiftlets, fantails, monarchs, and starlings. More than 80 percent (or 62 species) of the birds on Tetepare are non-migratory land birds, compared to 76 species on the much larger Isabel Island. Most of the bird species on Tetapare are either found throughout the New Georgian Islands or are widespread through the Solomon Islands. However, the Tetepare White-eye (Zosterops rendovae tetiparius) is endemic to Tetepare and abundant around the ranger station on the island. The Solomon Islands’ endemic sea eagle Haliaeetus sanfordi is present on Tetepare, with concentrations along the coast, in addition to some presence in the forested interior. As a species, this large sea eagle is considered “Vulnerable” by the IUCN, threatened by deforestation and hunting (BirdLife International 2008). Another vulnerable species, the yellow-legged pigeon Columba pallidiceps has also been recorded from Tetepare. Like several other rarely seen birds, such as the Crested Cuckoo dove, Reinwardtoena crassirostris, and the tiny Finch’s pygmy parrot, Micropsitta finschii, prefer Tetepare’s forest canopies to open areas or forest edges.
A freshwater fish expedition to Tetepare recorded 60 species, 46 genera, and 29 families. Of these, five were undescribed species endemic to the Solomon Islands (Schismatogbius sp., Sicyopterus sp., Stiphodon sp., Stenogobius sp., and an unknown Gobioid) (Jenkins and Boseto 2007). Of these five species that are endemic to the Solomon Islands, three of them have not been recorded anywhere but Tetepare (Sicyopterus sp., Stiphodon sp., and the unknown Gobioid). No invasive species were observed, but further study is needed both to clarify the taxonomic status of the species observed and to better understand the freshwater system.