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KIRIBATI
Plants and Animals

Plants and Animals

Plants

The coconut palm is the most important tree in Micronesia. Kopra, the dried meat of the coconut, from which coconut oil is made, is the most important export product and therefore an important source of income. The coconut also produces a kind of wine, tuba. Furthermore, rope, fuel, roofing straw and baskets are made from the coconut trees. Breadfruit trees are also common in Micronesia and provide lumber and fruit. Lumber also comes from the mahogany tree and the betel palm or areca palm. The betel nut is an important food product. The fruit of the pandanus tree is widely eaten and the leaves are used to make mats, baskets and fans.

Other traditional food plants are the taro, bread plants, tapioca and banana trees. Mangrove swamps are found along the coasts of the highland islands.

Colourful tropical plants and flowers are abundant in Micronesia, such as hibiscus, bougainvillea, plumeria, lilies, lantanas and crotons. Plants such as coleus, caladium and philodendron can be gigantic. Special is an insect-eating plant and a plant that closes its leaves when touched.

Animals

In general, the closer an archipelago is to the Asian mainland, the more animal species are found there. Higher-lying islands also have a greater variety of animal species than the lower atolls. For example, the Marshall Islands, Line Islands, Phoenix Islands and Gilbert Islands have little more than sea and shore birds. Palau, on the other hand, has the most animal species in its territory.

Micronesia's only native mammals are bats. Except on the Marshall Islands, bats with wingspans of up to one metre occur everywhere. Dogs, cats, mice, rats, pigs, cattle, horses and goats have all been imported. On several islands there are monitor lizards that can reach a length of almost two metres. Micronesia has many species of skinks and the gecko is also found everywhere. The coconut crab and the mangrove crab are two of the many species of crabs that occur in this area. Micronesia has about 7,000 species of insects, of which the many mosquitoes and cockroaches are the most troublesome for humans.

Micronesia has a very rich marine fauna, including a wide variety of hard and soft corals, anemones, sponges and many species of crustaceans, the most impressive of which is the giant tridacna mussel.

This mussel can reach 1.2 metres in diameter and weigh over 200 kg. Some specimens can live to be over 100 years old. Sea turtles such as the hawksbill, green and leatherback turtle are all endangered species, but still lay their eggs on the deserted sandy beaches. Harbour porpoises, sperm whales and dolphins populate the Micronesian waters.

More than 200 species of birds have been spotted on the Micronesian Islands and about 85 species breed in this area. The iiwi or cardinal honeyeater is almost extinct on Guam but is still common on the other islands. The white or grey reef heron lives around the reefs and in low water, always hunting for fish and small crabs. Little egrets are often found on grasslands where cattle graze. Micronesian starlings are very common. Also common are the lesser golden plover, whimbrel, red-legged stork, brown and black-backed gull and white tern. While diving and snorkelling, one can come across sea urchins, bonitos, butterfly fish, eels, mudskippers, swordfish, trumpet fish, tuna and many other species. Dangerous to humans can be jellyfish, stonefish, sea stars and conch shells.

Feral cats have wreaked havoc on the birds of the Phoenix Islands until they were virtually exterminated in the 1960s. Around Kiritimati, anglers mainly fish for bonefish.

Sources

Galbraith, K. / Micronesia
Lonely Planet

Levy, N.M. /Micronesia handbook Moon

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated December 2022
Copyright: Team The World of Info