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Buying through your teeth: traditional currency and conservation of flying foxes Pteropus spp. in Solomon Islands

  • Tyrone H. Lavery (a1) and John Fasi (a2)


Globally, island bats are vulnerable to subsistence hunting, with widespread population declines, local extirpations and extinctions. Bats are important to the ecological functioning of remote oceanic islands, and thus the sustainable management of hunting of flying foxes Pteropus spp. is a conservation priority in the Pacific. In Solomon Islands people hunt flying foxes for bushmeat and their canine teeth, which are used as traditional currency. The value of teeth potentially increases hunting pressure on species of Pteropus. We interviewed 197 people on Makira Island to determine the nature of this use and how it may influence flying-fox populations. We asked questions to gather information about hunting practices, the value of canine teeth, utilization of traditional currency, and population trends of Pteropus. Flying-fox teeth remain highly valued on Makira. It is primarily the teeth of P. tonganus that are used rather than those of the smaller P. cognatus. Although flying foxes are not targeted solely for their teeth, this added value seemingly drives hunters to focus on P. tonganus. Hunting varied across five regions of Makira and high hunting pressure corresponded with perceived rarity of P. tonganus. Regions with low hunting pressure may be opportune locations to initiate flying-fox conservation on Makira.


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