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FIJI EMPIRE
Fiji's Environment

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The Fiji islands are situated in the South Pacific. These islands are midway between Melanesia, Solomons, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea. They are south of the equator, just north of the Tropic of Capricorn and west of the International Dateline. The territorial limits enclose an area of 1.3 million square km about half a million square miles. Only 1.5% of this is dry land and about 300 islands make up the nation.

Viti Levu at 4052 square miles and Vanua Levu 2160 square miles are the biggest islands in that chain. Suva, the country's capital is on the south western coast of Viti Levu, and the island also has the country's highest peak. The highest peak is Mt Tomanivi (Mt Victoria) at about 4339ft. Taveuni and Kadavu are also substantial islands, but the rest of the country is made up of small islands divided into the Lomaiviti, Lau, Moala, Yasawa, Mamanuca and Rotuma Groups. Many of these islands are relatively untouched and there are many beautiful reefs, lagoons, harbors, as well as natural vegetation.

Since the 1960s, around 15% of the country's forests have been cleared and erosion has been a big problem. Management of the environment has also been a big problem and pollution and waste continue to pollute the waterways and lands around the urban areas, particularly around Suva. In some areas, fish consumption is a big health hazard and many locals have gotten sick because of the fish that has been eaten.

There are about 3000 plant species identified on the Fiji islands, around 1/3 are endemic. Fijians developed uses for much of the native vegetation for food, medicine, dyes, implements and building materials. Around 3500 years ago the first settlers brought poultry, dogs and pigs, and this coincided with the extinction of at least three of the indigenous bird species examples are two megapodes and a giant fruit pigeon. Bats are the only remaining indigenous land mammals but introduced animal species have taken to the local habitats with relish. Happy and established interlopers include the Indian mongoose which introduced to control rats in the sugar cane plantations, feral dogs, cats, pigs, goats and rats. The 20 species of land dwelling reptiles include turtles and snakes, but the migration of the crested iguana from South America is a bit of a mystery. There are about 100 bird species, 23 of which are native. Sea life is abundant and varied, and many species of coral, sponges, tropical reef fish, rays, sharks, dolphins and whales call the Fijian waters home.

Fiji enjoys a mild and stable climate most of the year due to the large expanses of open water that surround its islands. The prevailing winds are easterly and southeasterly, the mountainous spines of the larger islands produce clouds and greater rainfall on their windward sides. The wet season extends from November to April, but rain falls throughout the year. Daytime temperatures average around 77F and humidity is generally high. Tropical cyclones can blow up between November and April, although they are rarely dangerous.

FIJI GEOGRAPHY

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