Documentary Photography – Eating Bats In Fiji

In Fiji, Flying-foxes are considered a delicacy

This documentary photography was submitted to Edge of Humanity Magazine by environmental photojournalist Steven Saphore.

 

From “Beka Ni Viti: Bats In Fiji” project by Steven Saphore.

 

Click on any image to see Steven’s gallery of projects.

 

"Bat on the menu"

“Bat on the menu”

I am awoken by hunger pangs chiming like an alarm clock courtesy of yesterday’s long trek. Contrary to the borborygmus objections of my stomach, I remain particularly apprehensive to such a meal. Like a melanesian Gordon Ramsay of the non existent version of ‘Fiji’s MasterChef’, Silio enters the shack precariously pinching the steaming pot with banana leaves as so not to get burnt. Removing the lid, a plume of opaque steam dissipates into the morning air revealing our breakfast. Free range Beka Lulu (Samoan Flying-fox) infused with natural juices, blanched eyes and plump wings. Simmered over an open fire and served steaming. Flown in daily………………………..…$0

Bat Stew: A multitudinous entity, bats are relied upon for maintenance of Natewa Bay’s environment as well as a source of food for its inhabitants.

Bat Stew: A multitudinous entity, bats are relied upon for maintenance of Natewa Bay’s environment as well as a source of food for its inhabitants.

Beka Sigasiga: The only mammal capable of true flight, a 'Beka Sigasiga' (Known as 'Samoan Flying-fox' in English) hangs from the branch of a pawpaw tree as it surreptitiously approaches the fruit. Clearly visible along the branches are the claw marks of numerous bats who visit this tree regularly. In Fiji, Flying-foxes are considered a delicacy.

Beka Sigasiga: The only mammal capable of true flight, a ‘Beka Sigasiga’ (Known as ‘Samoan Flying-fox’ in English) hangs from the branch of a pawpaw tree as it surreptitiously approaches the fruit. Clearly visible along the branches are the claw marks of numerous bats who visit this tree regularly. In Fiji, Flying-foxes are considered a delicacy.

 

Eating Bats

 

Eating Montage 1

Eating Montage 2

Eating Montage 4

A common misconception suggests Flying foxes are filthy animals due to their pungent smell. However, meticulous grooming and impeccable hygiene rank them among the cleanest animals in the world. As such, “When we eat be’a [bat], nothing is left but the bones” says Qio.

Fiji 10c Coin

Fiji 10c Coin

With a severe lack of information concerning numbers, diets and threats of their bats, Fiji happens to be home to the rarest one in the world. Perched on the brink of extinction high above Taveuni Island’s ‘cloud forest’ lives the critically endangered, Beka Mirimiri. Arduously journeying to the remote Des-Voeux Peak in 2009, a team caught one pregnant female. It’s known population? One. Not one hundred, not one thousand… One. Single. Specimen. She is the holotype of the species and Fiji’s only native mammal. Derived from the rainy terrain she inhabits, her unique genus ‘Mirimiri Acrodonta’ is partly a Fijian translation of the word ‘Mist’. With her effigy gracing Fiji’s new 10c coin, thousands of Fijians unknowingly pocket and barter with Beka Mirimiri’s portrait on a daily basis. Unfavored by natural selection or eaten into sparsity? Irrelevant. Because, much like the change she represents, the future of this animal has fallen into our palms.

Wailotua Cave Entrance: 200km away on the Island Of Viti Levu, the Turaga Ni Koro passes the blossom of jewel-toned flowers into the gusts of chilled air exhaled from the mouth of the esoteric Wailotua Caves. The cave is well known for its mass of Fiji Blossom Bats... and myths. Local legend tells of Ono, the six headed serpent who has domain over these caves. The Turaga Ni Koro says Ono’s faces can be seen within the karst structures that play with light (and the mind), embellishing the walls and ceilings of each cavern. These natural caves in Wailotua Village are home to the world's majority of Fiji Blossom Bats.

Wailotua Cave Entrance: 200km away on the Island Of Viti Levu, the Turaga Ni Koro passes the blossom of jewel-toned flowers into the gusts of chilled air exhaled from the mouth of the esoteric Wailotua Caves. The cave is well known for its mass of Fiji Blossom Bats… and myths. Local legend tells of Ono, the six headed serpent who has domain over these caves. The Turaga Ni Koro says Ono’s faces can be seen within the karst structures that play with light (and the mind), embellishing the walls and ceilings of each cavern. These natural caves in Wailotua Village are home to the world’s majority of Fiji Blossom Bats.

Wailotua Caves: During special ceremonies, villagers harvest the microbats for consumption. Using smoke, the bats are first herded into a small cave chamber. Waiting inside is a villager who uses no more than her/his teeth to crush their skulls. Finally, their bodies are collected into a bag. Reportedly, no amount of water, tea or juice can remove the taste of dead bats from the mouth; only yaqona (A traditional drug brewed from the yaqona root. Also known as 'Kava').

Wailotua Caves: During special ceremonies, villagers harvest the microbats for consumption. Using smoke, the bats are first herded into a small cave chamber. Waiting inside is a villager who uses no more than her/his teeth to crush their skulls. Finally, their bodies are collected into a bag. Reportedly, no amount of water, tea or juice can remove the taste of dead bats from the mouth; only yaqona (A traditional drug brewed from the yaqona root. Also known as ‘Kava’).

 

See also:

Australia War On Bats

Vanua Levu, Fiji

By Steven Saphore

 


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