Fiji's Bug Bill

Author:Eszter Balázs

The island nation pays tribute to its rich animal and plant life

NANAI ARE A RARE SIGHT: the cicadas make an
appearance in Fiji only once every eight years.
e shiny-backed, yellowish tree bugs, a native
of Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest and main island, also
recently replaced the image of Queen Elizabeth II
on the Fijian $100 banknote.
In 2012, Fiji decided to highlight its endemic
national heritage— and the need to preserve, pro-
tect, and promote it—on the faces of its legal
tender. e island nation in the South Pacic is not
the rst country to showca se its plants and animals
on its currency. South Africa, New Zealand, and
Brazil also  aunt species of elephants, falcons, and
dusky groupers that are u nique to their countries.
In Fiji’s case, a number of these ora and fauna
are critically enda ngered or have not been sighted
in a long while.
Take, for example, the kulawai, or red-throated
lorikeet, the smalles t member of the parrot family
in Fiji. Recorded on only four of the country’s
332 islands, the predominantly green bird with
orange and yellow patches around its beak and
tail was la st seen in 1993 and is suspected to h ave
fallen prey to an invasive spe cies of ship rats. e
bird, now likely extinct, is im mortalized on Fiji’s
only polymer banknote, the $5 bill.
e $10 banknote features a beli, or Lever’s
goby, a freshwater sh found in fast-running
streams in the hi ghlands of Fiji. e $20 banknote
depicts a bird that nests on a single isla nd, Gau,
which gave the otherwi se seafaring Fiji petrel its
name, kacau ni Gau. Exper ts believe that no more
than 50 pairs of this rarely seen bird—which
used to adorn Fiji’s former national airline, Air
Pacic—survive today.
In addition to the banknotes, t he Reserve Bank
of Fiji issued a series of coins featuring other
endemic species, including a rabbitsh, a ying
fox, a parrot, a humphead wrasse, an i guana, and
a peregrine falcon.
e only plant that made it onto the new tender
is the tagimoucia, Fiji’s best-known ower, which
ourishes only on a single island. “People have
tried to plant it elsewhere in Fiji, but it refuses
to grow,” said Susan Kumar, chief manager of
the Currency and Corporate Ser vices Group at
the Reserve Bank of Fiji, who worked on the
new banknote series from its conception to its
launch in 2012.
“By using animals a nd plants unique to the Fiji
Islands we wanted to make p eople aware of them,
Top: Fijian $5, with the kulawai bird. Bottom: Fijian $10, with beli fish.
Fijis Bug Bill
The island nation pays tribute to its rich animal and plant life
Eszter Balázs
Fiji decided to highlight its
national heritage—and the
need to preserve, protect, and
promote it.

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